EXPATS DON'T FORGET TO REGISTER TO VOTE Important note to those living outside of the US about voting in the US Presidential Election in November. Even if you've voted in the primary, make sure that you are registered to vote absentee in the state and county where you last lived in the US. Follow this link for more information: www.VoteFromAbroad.org
The cicadas are back, and so we attempt to embrace the summer in Mugnano with very hot days in the shade and evenings under the stars.
This morning I make a cold lemony torta and Dino picks up special ravioli in La Quercia. Our favorite pasta shop in Bagnaia is closed on Tuesdays, so this is our second favorite shop for these handmade treats.
I'm suffering from the heat, and so are Dino and Sofi. Pandina does not get much travel in the hot months, and Dino is thinking of moving her into the side space in the parcheggio.
Don Francis arrives mid afternoon, and although we've already eaten our pranzo, I fix a cold salad for him and we sit around and gab. Don Francis is a great "gabber"; he loves to talk about just about anything. He reminds me of my father, his mind is so expansive.
Cornelio, his former "roommate" in Isernia, and Cornelio's beautiful new wife, Letteria, arrive for a visit and for cena. Don Francis always holds court wherever he goes, and today is no exception.
Dino found Cornelio and his wife a room at Albergo Rosanna's in Attigliano ww.ciaociaoitaly.com/de/hotel-attigliano.htm for the night, where rooms are offered for €57! Don Francis always stays with us in our guest room, even if it is only for one night. Tonight he'll stay with us, and tomorrow we'll drive him to Fimucino, when he'll return to the U S to visit his family in New York and then travel to Washington, D. C. to return to his work at the Conference of Catholic Bishops www.usccb.org/.
Tiziano joins us for cena, and we all sit at a long table under the pergola, sharing stories in two languages; Dino and I are able to absorb much of it. No, we do not take it in totally, but I have the excuse that I'm cooking and serving.
It remains warm, and Dino wears his summer headband, which makes him look somewhat like an American sushi chef. Poor guy, he really suffers from the heat, and this helps.
Tiziano is especially relaxed and animated; he seems to enjoy the company; who wouldn't with Don Francis' endless stories and laughter?
I'm ready to jump out of my skin; I'd be happy to do that if I could easily jump back in later...I am especially loved by tiny animali(bugs) who prick my skin and won't let me alone.
Dino has no such problems, but worries about me and takes me to Vezio, the pharmacist, who gives me topical sprays and a roll-on ammonia concoction to rub on after a bite. So it's really not paradise here after all.
We wake up early and drive off to Fimucino to drop off Don Francis; it has been so good to see him. On the way down, we brainstorm about Tiziano's dream project, and he agrees to be a mentor and advisory board member.
What is most interesting is his take on the Papacy. When I start to roll out my perspective of what Pope Benedict is portraying so very wrongly as the only way to practice one's faith, Don Francis responds by beginning to lay out the current philosophy of the Church.
He tells us that under the "reign" of John Paul II, even though the pope was expansive and loving, the rolls of Catholics and Catholic priests continued to diminish. So under this pope, it is determined the Church will concentrate its efforts on the true believers, regrouping to strengthen their resolve, letting the others just fend for themselves.
I just cannot believe it. With the world in such a chaotic state, if there was ever a time for love and embrace, it is now. My hopes for the world are not completely dashed, however, for even though I hear dismal news on this day, my thoughts are drawn back to Don Gianpietro.
Don Gianpietro is one of our priests; a priest who speaks with such love and generosity of spirit that I choose to ignore the Pope's edicts and continue with my own spiritual path of hope and love and reverence of God. I can find peace in Mugnano and in our little church; for I am sure that I am as devout as those who bow to the teachings of Papa Benedict.
So I'm wondering about the afterlife, if there is such a thing. And the words of George Carlin come to mind. In one of his monologues, he spoke about heaven and hell, but added in "heck". Heck is a place where some unfortunate souls are sent after death; it is not as bad as hell, but is certainly not heaven. Va bene. I can deal with any of it. Can you?
It's too hot for pranzo outside, so under a kitchen sheltered by closed shutters and a floor fan, we eat our summer salads and watch a movie. Dino nods off, then leaves for Viterbo for a sonogram )ecocolordoppler) of his carotid arteries. The technicians find one small spot on one of his arteries, so he'll repeat the sonogram next year. We'll return to our good doctor for an explanation and advice for treatment.
Tonight it's cena under the stars at the Gaseperoni's, with a very tan Annika and Torbjorn, newish Mugnano property owners from Sweden. Annika has mastered the Italian language so wonderfully that she is able to match the quickest speaking Italian, word for word. We watch her animated conversation and are simply amazed by her knowledge.
Feeling somewhat like the dumb kids on the block, we're embraced by our hosts, who kindly respond to our version of their language with smiles and make us feel so at home. Rosita is the star of this night; with course after course she presents each dish, holding the giant serving plates in the curve of her arm and dolling out giant spoonfuls. She is so confident about what she has prepared that I am in awe of her.
Annika has prepared a tray of foccaccia, and it is very tasty. She has mastered this local favorite, and I'm eager to try to make it as well. I think I'd make it thin, more like the crackers she prepared the other evening, the last time we were with them.
I'm able to tell Enzo about the New York Times article today about the benefits of drinking cool red wine. He's very happy; he acts as if he's known that all along. We drink his wine, and it is really pretty good. Cool light-bodied red wine on a warm night is really refreshing. Cóme no?
Here's our group, minus Dino the American sushi chef, acting tonight as the papparazzo....
"Why are you up so early?" I ask Dino; then I realize today I'm to have a blood test in Soriano. We arrive there around 8 A M.
A lovely and ever-serene Rosina sits behind the counter at CUP, where I hand in my prescription and pay, and I'm now so familiar with the process, that even though I don't really understand her question, I finally realize that since Dino is driving me home I should fill out a form. Is this is because I might faint at the sight of a needle and would need to be carried out?
There are also friends inside the room where my blood is to be taken, and although the male technician thinks my name is Smith (aren't all Americans named Smith?), he remembers I am from Mugnano.
This is the first person we have ever met who knows Mugnano and thinks it is "brutto".
"Perché?" (Why?) I ask him. He tells me it is so because it is very quiet and there is no one around. He also remembers that I'm from San Francisco, and agrees that that city is a chaotic place. So he nods, thinking that if boring is what pleases me, so be it.
With a "Salute a tua marito" (greetings to your husband) as I walk out the room, I leave, and we park in the main square of Soriano to have caffé at Caffé Centrale, the hub of the jazz festival to be held late this month and next.
We leave after cappuccinos with a flyer for the festival, and Dino now has the director's phone number to call. I want to write a story for Italian Notebook about the jazz master class and about the festival, and Dino may want to get involved as well.
Back at home, Dino tapes up the manifold of the Alfa. He thinks we need to replace it again, for the car is not running as well as it should. I prune some roses, pick the last of the older rugghetta and pull out the plants, for the new rugghetta in front of the summer kitchen has grown enough to start to pick it.
Dino leaves for Tenaglie; no, there are still a few tasks to finish. I clip some lavender until I'm sent inside by the bees, then close the shutters and bring more lavender inside to strip. First I take a large bunch of dried lavender and put it in a small basket for the bathroom.
I find a recipe for a tomato and peach salad, and then another, so I'll play around with the recipes and make one up of my own. After we try it today, I'll post it if it's worthy.
Tonight we're going to Shelly's for a barbecue, and we're to bring coleslaw, but have no eggs for the boiled dressing. Dino will bring the eggs home at noon. I will make the dressing then, although I'd like to refrigerate the dressing for a day. Fa niente ( no matter). The finished coleslaw will be fine anyway.
Fa niente. This is a phrase I've taught dear Mary to say, and I'm reminded that we'll see Mary and Don on Saturday. How we've missed them!
The cena at Shelly and Claudio's is fun, seated on the side of the house facing the village and our house. How lovely the village looks when lit up at night; thankfully the tower remains lit at night until at least midnight. The coleslaw is a hit; Italians grow and fix cavalfiore (cabbage), but not in a salad. So this is a new twist for them.
Diana, their new puppy, is six months old. She's cute and one of these days we'll bring Sofi by to see if they get along.
The 4th of July is not important in Italy, but it is with us. And so on this evening we initiate two families into an old fashioned American barbecue.
Mario arrives at 6 A M to weed-whack, and at 8:30, Enzo arrives to fix Pietro's water pressure. We're hoping that won't take long, or that we can leave Enzo at Pietro's, for we have lots to do today.
Enzo needs Dino to work with him, so although I am frustrated, Pietro's water pressure challenge is solved and we reach Viterbo in time to make Sofi's parucchiere (hairdresser) appointment for a summer cut and to find the hamburger and buns at LIDL.
After pranzo, Dino returns to Viterbo to pick up Sofi while I fix the apple pie. But after it's in the oven for less than five minutes the power goes out and I take the pie out of the oven. After a call to Dino, so that he can walk me through what to do after opening the fuse box, I'm unable to fix the challenge, so decide to cook the pie after Dino returns home.
It's really hot today, but the potato salad and coleslaw are made, the pie is ready except for the time in the oven, and I set the table. Dino fixes the power problem, the pie cooks, and all is well.
Our guests arrive, including the Annika and Torbjorn and their visiting daughter, all from Sweden, and Enzo and Rosita and Tiziano Gasperoni, all from the Mugnano valley.
We have a wonderful evening under the stars, with much laughter and singing of the American National Anthem and waving of red, white and blue napkins. Everyone wants a cheeseburger, and almost everyone wants a second. By now our guests know what they like on top of the burgers, and there is plenty to choose from.
Dino reads that there is an initial meeting tonight of the Ecomuseo Mugnano group, and although Tiziano won't attend because he's afraid the group will be political, we tell him we'll go and let him know what we think.
We leave somewhat early and arrive just outside Ciampino airport in Rome to pick up Mary and Don for a three week visit. Mary and Sofi and I sit in the back seat on the way back, and I'm so very happy to see them, especially Mary.
We take them to Tenaglie, but before we do we stop at our parcheggio to show them the tarps installed over the car. It may be a good solution for their balcony, which faces west and is very hot in the summer time.
At home Mary seems relieved to have survived the somewhat chaotic trip, and I tell her that we'll see them often during the next three weeks. It's so good to have them here.
In Mugnano, we have pranzo and Dino watches the British F1 trials. I am so tired that I take a "dolce fa niente" (nap), and he joins me after the trials are completed. When we wake up, there's a little time to do some watering in the garden, and then we all walk up to the school, where the meeting of Ecomuseo Mugnano is about to begin.
Alberto Castori, Antonio Monchini, Francesco Perini and an unknowing Tiziano Gasperoni are introduced as the leaders of this group, set up to preserve Mugnano's cultural history and provide a living museum for Mugnano and the surrounding territories.
We arrive somewhat skeptical at the beginning. Although Tiziano did not attend, he sent a document to be read describing what he wants to achieve. Everything is well received and applause given at the end of each talk.
Afterward there is food and drink for all, and we stand around and gab, especially with Paola, who wants us to come to a cena (dinner) before they leave for the U S. We stand with her grandmother, Candida, and I ask if she'll adopt me and become my nonna (grandmother). She agrees with a big hug, and now I have a living nonna.
Sofi has behaved pretty well during this get together, wanting to hang out with Ubik, who will have not much to do with her. But she's happy to be with us, and sits under the bench I share with Paola, as long as I am there.
Back at home Dino continues his love affair with the wisteria, coaxing it while I look on. I'm imagining it full and lush, covering the space while we sit underneath in our own little grotto.
After a good night's sleep, Dino waters the front terrace early and we have colazione (breakfast) under the wisteria. Yesterday I thought of something marvelous for the journal, but instantly forgot what it was. I am still unable to recollect it. Purtroppo.
It is hot, but there is a breeze while we eat breakfast under the wisteria. We may need the shade of the caki tree, I muse, even after the wisteria fills in. So let's not make a hasty decision about its demise...
I take Dino out to the middle garden to show him strong shoots from the cherry tree, growing up in a location nearer the side path. He's just about to cut them off at the ground until I ask him if the tree would be better in this spot. He agrees, just in time, and when the tree flourishes it will be time for the old cherry tree to bid the garden adieu.
Sofi stays in the house with the fan keeping her cool while we walk up to church, with Dino wearing a straw hat and me with a Japanese fan. Before reaching the church we come upon Candida, and I greet her as Nonna Candida and she agrees and laughs. It's difficult for her to mount the few steps at the front of the church, so Giuseppa and I stand by her, steadying her.
We are all ageing, and I think often of groups of people in our village separated by generations, and wonder how they will take charge of our little piece of paradise. Thankfully, with the Ecomuseum in its infancy stages, the future looks promising. We look forward to being involved.
After a Don Ciro mass, we give a copy of last night's document to Tiziano, and make plans for him to come to work on our joint project later this week. There is an urgency to it, to getting the preliminaries on paper, and we look forward to it.
It's so hot walking home, but we stop to buy a few lottery tickets for Ferragosto and Vincenza and I walk arm in arm down the hill, while she tells us today Marsiglia and Felice's nipote (grandson), Alessandro, is getting married today in Bomarzo to a girl also from Bomarzo. Her father, Italo, will attend, but Marsiglia and Felice will not.
These days, Marsiglia is in much discomfort with her feet, and with Felice not recognizing much of anything or anyone, they are a couple in unfortunate condition. It is good that their son and family live close by and are attentive. We will visit them tomorrow, if possible.
Dino drives to Il Pallone for grocery shopping for today's pranzo while I close the shutters and hang out the laundry. It's another one of those "stay inside" days. Dino is glad of it, for he's looking forward to watching the Formula 1 race from England this afternoon. Tonight we'll attend Kate's birthday celebration at a restaurant in Montecchio. It's another opportunity to be with Mary and Don, and we look forward to that.
After what Dino thinks is an exciting F1 race in the rain, we drive to Tenaglie to pick up Don and Mary and drive to Montecchio for cena to celebrate Kate's birthday.
Paolo is here, as is AnnaMaria and Silvano, to join the group, and it is interesting to see Paolo sit next to Silvano. There is some background between them that we do not know, but they are polite to each other, although not more than that. In Italy there are always factions, and we're wondering if these two represent warring factions. On the surface, all is tutto a posto (everything is fine).
Dino tells me later that the owner of the restaurant's father is the president of the Provincia of Terni. He is not a lawyer, has never been a mayor, so it's interesting to know that somehow he was chosen for this post. Perhaps we will investigate and let you know...
Tonight I'm able to converse somewhat with the Italians sitting across from me. Don and Dino tell me later that they were impressed that I qualified what I had to say with the statement that I don't speak Italian well so only speak in the present tense. So please forgive my ugly Italian. The Italians nod politely in agreement, as if to say, "the old broad is at least trying".
I do comprehend a fair amount of what they are speaking, and am able to translate it to Mary, who understandably does not speak the language, for she is not here often. There's no need for her to learn, other than a few words to get her by. And she does well with those. The language is not for everyone. So it's useful to not hound visitors with the insistence that they learn. I love Mary, and anything I can do to make her visit enjoyable is important to me.
Mary and I leave just before the end of the meal to find a little cool air, and when the others leave the restaurant they find us sitting outside on a bench, enjoying the cool evening breeze.
Across from us is an ancient building, complete with ramparts and a loggia. We're able to imagine ourselves hundreds of years ago sitting on a similar bench, looking up at the same view. Italy is surely a remarkable country, interested in preserving its architectural history, and we're thankful for that.
With plans to see them in a few days at our house for cena, we say c'e reviddiamo and sogni d'oro (see you again and golden dreams).
Back in Mugnano we sit for a few moments on the terrace under a starry sky, with Sofi so happy we are home...
There are bills to pay at the post office and emails to send regarding questions about a few properties for sale, and Dino drives off, leaving Sofi and me to explore the garden and enjoy the not-so-hot temperatures. I'm feeling lazy.
I surely wish I could remember what I'd thought of a few days ago to put in the journal...My mind is surely remembering less and less these days...
Chicken salad with tarragon and walnuts, sliced peaches and melon with mint, and a little cole slaw will be our menu for pranzo, and with the nearing of the noon hour the temperature rises and I close the shutters downstairs. This afternoon I'll work on Fortezza, hoping Marco will have an idea of how to cover the little holes that remain in the canvas. In the future, we'll use a thinner gesso so that it will penetrate better.
While I'm at Marco's, Dino takes the car to Viterbo to the Alfa dealer to put on a new manifold. We've replaced it several times, and although I don't know much of anything about manifolds, if Dino tells me we need to replace it, I concur.
I really appreciate Marco; he comes over to me and guides me when I ask at his bottega; otherwise, he let's me get on with my painting. It is the small hints that I appreciate. I also learn a lot by letting him stand in front of my latest work and finesse certain sections. Afterward, I use his techniques and hopefully imbed them in my sorry brain. Since I have no idea what I'll remember and what I'll not, it's anyone's guess. But week by week I seem to improve. So let's not worry about it.
Dino takes the painting and puts it in the car at the end of the session, for I like to work on it during the week. Perhaps tomorrow morning I'll do a little more.
Italy and Shakespeare seem to have more than just a cursory connection; some people believe he was born in Italy. Since about one third of his plays are set in Italy, that may be possible, although some believe he learned the details about Italian culture from Venetian glass blowers of his day. Does that sound strange, or what?
According to Martino Iuvara , Shakespeare was born Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza (the Italian version of 'Shakespeare') to Calvinist parents in the Sicilian city of Messina, but later fled to England because of the Holy Inquisition.
Tomorrow night Don Salter and Mary will be here for cena, and we'll let him read all about it then and see what he thinks. Don always has a funny story to tell and can probably make a well informed connection. Let's see...
We see an ad on the internet for "secondamano" autos, so this is a clue to Terence selling to Italo-Americans. Italians claim they were the first in just about anything, from the telephone to the real heritage of Shakespeare.
In a new book entitled "Shakespeare in Venice", Saul Bassi and Alberto Toso Fei claim that there is too much local Venetian color in Othello and the Merchant of Venice for Shakespeare not to have visited the city.
"The playwright uses the local words "gondola", gondolier" and even "traject (the Grand Canal's 'traghetto' ferry boat), mentions the Venentian custom of giving pigeons as a gift (his 'dish of doves'), and twice asks "What news on the Rialto?" - reference to the gossip central of the Rialto Bridge.
Italians love of the cell phone; it is as if they see the act of driving a car as the violin to the bow of the cell phone, and waltz around Italy singing, singing. Now, the Italian Parliament is considering fines for people caught talking on the cell phone while driving without wearing a headpiece.
Recently a man caught talking on the phone by a policeman said his call would only to take a minute; his headpiece sat on the console beside him, unused...
This morning I have a pedicure, and although I am early, Giusy tells me I'll need to wait ten minutes. The ten minutes stretches to almost thirty, as two other people are squeezed in ahead of me. I tell myself not to complain; just to ask that the next time I have an appointment, would she please confirm to take me on time?
But when she ushers me in and gives me a hug, she sees that I am quietly cool. Behind the partition are a young woman and her mother, who have not finished their appointment.
Giusy then begins to weep. She tells me that yesterday she had to take her mother to the rest home in Bomarzo. Her sister has recently died and there is no one to take care of her. Evidently these two people had appointments yesterday... I put my arms around her as she asks me to forgive her for the bad pedicure she'll give me today.
I tell her to respire (breathe). Recently I was told that to lower stress, take in five successive breaths with one's nose, hold the breaths as long as one can, and then blow out. I wait as she follows my instructions and then I can see her body relax.
We always talk philosophy and religion, and today is no exception. We agree that a buon morte (good and relatively painless way to die) is to die quickly, and both agree that we desire a buon morte adesso (now). Waiting until one is old and infirm is not the way to go. And in my case, if Roy precedes me, I have no one to look after me.
We're interrupted as the telephone rings and a very determined woman presses Giusy to do something for her, although her pedicure is already scheduled.
"Please help me!" Giusy asks the woman in Italian, but the woman will not stop talking. Finally Giusy tells her that she'll see her at her appointment and hangs up, then takes the phone off the hook. Before we are through, I tell her that it is a good thing that I am here right now, and she agrees. How rude some people are!
When I tell Dino about the experience, he tells me that people should not treat her in this way. It is not as if someone is getting their car washed or laundry done. This is a personal service business, and no one should be able to act in this manner.
Unfortunately, Giusy can't send everyone away, for she needs the business. But when the woman arrives, I hope that she will tell her what she has been through. Tomorrow we'll return to Orte, and I'll bring two lavender wands; one for Giusy and one for her mother. It's the least I can do for this dear woman.
Giusy remains on my mind for the rest of the morning, as we drive to Marina Fa Mercato for an umbrella and stand for Don and Mary. The one we want will be in tomorrow, so we'll pick it up then and take it to Tenaglie and help them to install it on their balcony.
Tonight Don and Mary arrive for cena, and it will be a very simple one. They're also invited for Friday, which is Don's birthday, and Duccio and Giovanna are invited as well. We so enjoy these two couples. Tonight I'll give Don the article about Shakespeare.
I'll also give him the one about the cardinal virtues, for I am not sure how many there really are...four or seven? With the current painting of Fortezza (fortitude, strength or courage), I'd like to follow her with the other virtues. Don and Mary can be my mentors and guides in finding good examples to paint...
We receive an email from Democrats Abroad to remind us to re-register to vote for the general election in November. We registered and voted in the Primary, but that did not give us entry into the voting process in November. We register, download the completed forms, and will mail them in the next days to the U S.
Follow this link for more information: www.VoteFromAbroad.org
The afternoon passes without note, and evening arrives bringing Don and Mary, who spend a lovely few hours with us on the terrace.
Don is not pleased with the Shakespeare article, acting oh-so-British about it. He tells me that there is proof of a birth certificate in England for the Bard, and the more I goad him the more he shakes his head and looks away.
Regarding the virtues, they agree to research them for me, and suggest models for them. Enough said for now.
Everything works out well, and the simple meal is finished with a rather complex assortment of peaches that have been soaking in red wine in the frigo with cinnamon stick after the wine and sugar were cooked on the stove to dissolve the sugar.
The parfait begins with the peaches, is topped with a generous dollop of freshly whipped panna (cream) and over that a spoonful or so of our cherry syrup. Alongside that is a small glass of the chilled wine to sip while eating the parfait.
Annika and Torbjorn stop by to say goodbye, and stay for a beer and conversation with our guests. We loved seeing them, love to have them as occasional neighbors, and look forward to seeing them in September. They seem sad as they leave, and we know how they feel, for on those days when we first owned this property we were so sad to leave.
On this lovely warm night with a generous breeze, we end the evening with a walk to the center garden, where Dino and Mary talk while Don and I do some star-gazing.
Last night, Don was full of stories, including the quote, "Liberty is a stinking corpse to the loyal Fascists." Italians don't like speaking about WWII. I wonder what those remaining Fascists feel about the price of liberty now?
Don continues that they think they were responsible for the ending of the war, with not much credit given to the work of the Allies. To read more about it, how about Curzio Malaparte's The Skin?
The more time goes by, the more I think the United States has a lot in common with Italy. Now it's place on the world stage has slid to that beside Italy. Although we dearly love Italy and love living here, that similarity is not one we ever thought we'd see or want to see. Like the dollar, the once dominant force has had its shoes muddied and can't seem to climb out of its pig pen. We remain here slogging in the mud, with prices out of control.
Let's change the subject. I ask Dino to pick up an anguria (watermelon). It's also referred to cocomero. On Friday I'll take a tray of it to the bottega and also make a tray for us to have at home during the hot summer days.
He drives off to pick up the results of my blood test and to bring back a cocomero, so that I can make granita. But he also arrives back with our U S rebate check, which is a welcome surprise but is deposited immediately into the bank.
I read the NYT each morning online, and although we are so happy to live here, the thought of the New York City sweetmobiles gives me a pang. What a great idea, tapping into the inner yearnings of a frantic populace, dreaming of a sweeter life and relegated to a frantic caffeine and work-induced stupor to get one through their days.
It's silent here, but for the sound of the floor fan gyrating in the closed and shuttered cocoon of our bedroom. I've just read some of Don's issue of the New Statesman, and admit I enjoy reading it.
I like the British use of words, and love Don's word-smithing. Pandemic is a word he's used more than once on me, as well as hegira. Both words describe the reason we are here; pandemic which describes the obsessive way of life of working Americans and hegira, which describes our flight from our former lives.
I'm about to sit in a darkened room with the copy of the magazine and devour it. Oh, it's time to serve up pranzo.
Fabulous for the U S auto market: BMW and Fiat are joining forces to bring the Fiat 500 to America! See our July News blog for details. The present head of Fiat has really turned the company around, creating alliances all over the world. The car is really cute, and should be a big hit in the U S, with Americans enhancing their love of all things Italian with this little mobile. Brava, Fiat!
Cocomero is the word of the day. To you it's watermelon. To me it's a lot of work, but the result is worth it. I've told Marco I'd bring a container of granita to the bottega on Friday, and Dino has picked up a big roly-poly one, so I stand over the sink and hack away at it.
By the time I'm through I've made three tubs, and they all fit in the freezer. The recipe is on the site, and aside from de-seeding the watermelon, it's not a chore.
Late in the afternoon, after the intense heat begins to wane, we drive South to Marina Fa Mercato in Orte to pick up Don's umbrella. That done, we drive it to Tenaglie, where Don and Dino rig it up on the balcony and Mary and Sofi and I sit in the kitchen. After a quick goodbye, we're back in Lazio and Dino returns to caki-cutting with his tall ladder.
I am not ashamed to say that I am a Democrat, but what Obama is doing with a group of senior advisors tells me he is making the kind of mistakes that will probably cost him the election.
In today's, NYTimes, Roger Cohen, an Op-Ed Contributing analyst, tells us:
"I, like others who witnessed his Bosnian diplomacy, am a fan, however maddening the Holbrooke ego. It was impossible, having watched mass Balkan slaughter over years, not to marvel at his ability to forge enduring peace against all odds. He deserved a Nobel Peace Prize."
At a ceremony in Berlin this month, President George W. Bush's father, the 41st president, described Holbrooke as "the most persistent advocate I've ever run into." Translate as: Don't get between this bull and what he wants.
Cohen goes on..."That can be useful, put to the service of the nation he loves, at a time when America, enmeshed in two wars, needs to cut deals in Iraq, with Iraq's neighbors, and in Afghanistan. Lake has called himself a "pragmatic neo-Wilsonian." I'd call Holbrooke an "idealistic neo-Kissingerian" - a man for a rough world. "
When Tony Lake, a former best friend of Holbrooke, was asked if he wanted the job of Secretary of State he acted as if he did not, but wanted to make sure that Holbrooke does not get the job.
If you read the journal, you'll recall that I was invited to Brussels by the Democrats Abroad earlier this year, and heard him speak candidly about Hillary and why he supported her. So by now you'll know we're big fans of Richard Holbrooke; we've followed his activities for years.
What is up or not up with Tony Lake is something I do not know. But I hope the Democratic campaign will not get caught in this kind of parachute net, a net that will cost the democrats the election.
Back to little Mugnano...
It's a lovely morning, with just a hint of a breeze. Dino goes grocery shopping while I make a cold dessert for Don's birthday celebration tomorrow night and a cucumber soup with our own cucumbers. We're still like children when we use anything from our own garden.
"Hey! Look at this!" we tell each other, holding up the item in question as if it were a giant fish we just caught. We also poach chicken, to serve as chicken tonnato. Now most of tomorrow's cena is finished.
There's time to feed the roses, and to give a few plants a jolt of coffee grounds. These days I sprinkle them around, including a few of the box that are not doing all that well. I have no idea if the coffee will help, but will let you know if I see any significant changes.
Our barbecue is giving up, and Dino wants to look for one second-hand. But I think the Italians don't know about gas grills they way Americans do. It will cost about €100 for the parts we'll need to fix our existing one, purchased in 2001 and shipped to Italy in 2002. So for now he's on the search.
Last night Dino suggested we change our roof drains to drain into a cisterna to use to water the garden, and I told him I think it's a good idea. I hurt his feelings, however, for what he tells me is my candidness. I told him to go ahead, for I think it's very important for him to keep busy and always have a project, for his peace of mind. Do I know him after all these years? I thought so, but there's always something to learn about one's relationship with the one they love.
After grilled burgers and potato salad, we get dressed for tonight's mass in Arezzo with Don and Mary. First, Dino will finish the installation of their umbrella. Sofi will come along, and Dino assures me that if we don't find a place in the shade for her to wait in the car with opened windows, he'll not attend the mass. We'll see.
Mary and I sit in the kitchen while the umbrella is installed and they tell us that the shade from the umbrella installed over their bedroom door is an amazing addition. So for just a little money, they'll have a comfortable visit.
It takes about an hour to drive to Arezzo, and because we have a Bollino Blue sticker on the car, we are able to drive all the way up to the Duomo. A Bollino Blue is a sticker for a car that proves that it has been certified by an authorized dealer and smog-checked. These checks must be done annually to be good, but make it possible for the car to enter cities all over Italy that otherwise cannot be entered.
We also have Mary's disabled sticker, so call the telephone number on the sign as we enter the city, and they take down our car license number and tell us to go ahead. If we get a ticket several months from now, let's see how we handle it...
There is a lovely flat park next to the Duomo, and because we are early, we sit outside at a little café with cold drinks until the time of the mass. Dino checks the church, but no one is inside, naturally. In a few minutes it will be full of people...
We walk over to the Duomo, and the mass has just begun. Sofi waits in the car nearby, but the windows are open and it is in the shade.
We see a woman come up to the altar when it is time for the homily, and a very kind looking priest talks to the young boys and she translates. I wonder if this is Miranda? The conversation between the woman and the priest is very funny, for although he's so happy to have them in his church and sing during the mass, there seems to be some conversation about just what she should translate.
After mass, I see a man that looks like William walking toward us, so I ask him if he is William. He looks questioningly at me, so I tell him my name. After hugs all around, we talk for a few minutes and then agree we'll meet them outside.
There is time for Dino to get Sofi out of the car, and she is so distressed, that when he lets her off her lead and points her to me, she instead runs up a flight of stairs to the park and races across to the bar, thinking that's where I am.
Dino finds her and carries her back to a spot where she can clearly see me, and she races across the front of the Duomo to my arms. I am so sorry. But just then the choir files out and she is surrounded by young children who can't wait to give her a hug. There she is, on her side, on her back, wiggling and happy as can be.
A young boy looks up at us and says, "I'm the one who sang the solos!", only to have a boy close to him retort, "Not ALL the solos..." and now we're all friends. We meet William and Miranda's 2 girls, and then the parents emerge.
We introduce them to Don and Mary, telling them that our friends are from Newcastle and know Ampleforth Abbey well. What a small world...
Agreeing to get in touch, and that we'll email them the photos Dino took inside, we leave for home. On the way we discover that Ampleforth is a private school that royalty and distinguished and extremely wealthy people send their children to. Miranda and William's nephew is one of the children, perhaps even the very boy who "sang the solos", so we understand the connection.
We wind up driving to Attigliano for pizza at La Fossate, before taking them home to Tenaglie, and confirming that they'll come to our house tomorrow night for Don's birthday cena.
It's Don's birthday, and with the preparations for cena mostly complete, there is time to go to see our good doctor for a translation of the results from my blood test and Dino's procedure.
My cholesterol is nothing to worry about, but he tells me to stay away from red meat and some saturated fats for six months and we'll test again. I don't think that is too extreme, and will see what I can do about following his wishes.
After a quick pranzo, Dino takes me to Marco's, and during the next four hours, with a break to eat some granita I brought for the group, the face is altered and I'm feeling better about it.
Dino picks me up at 6 and we're home and straightening up and fixing the tonnato sauce and setting the table, before our guests arrive. Duccio and Giovanna are first, and then the honored guest with his wonderful woman friend, Mary, arrive.
Over brindisi (toasts) with prosecco, Don is told to open his popper and wear the enclosed crown for the evening. He's given gifts, including a Michelin map book, a box of sweets, and a medal on a green and white and red ribbon, noting that he is the "megliore insegnante in il mondo" (the best teacher in the world).
Why not? Dino takes a photo of him and then tells him we want one in front of his class in England. What will he say to the students? Easy. Tell them that in Italy the people think he is the very best...
Here's a photo of him blowing out the one candle on his cake...
Don seems fairly alert this morning, and after a good night's sleep, he and Mary sit around with us on the terrace and talk until almost noon. They leave after we agree that we'll have a road trip with them on Tuesday to Norchia, and we settle in to just lollygag for the rest of the day.
Tonight is a "Nottebianca" (all night party scene) in San Martino Nel Cimino, so we take Sofi and drive there over the Soriano hill, reaching the town at around 9 P M. Why did we do this? Italians love noise and there are three stages set with live music, huge grills cooking sausages and smoking up the street, and lots of people, but not much of character can be seen on this night, with the exception of a man selling honey.
Sofi is not happy, although she loves people she is afraid of loud drum sounds, so follows along with her tail between her legs while we walk up the steep hill to the top of the town and down again.
Dino wants a pizza, so we drive on to Vetralla, to Bobbo's, for the best pizza around. We've heard of this place for years, but this is the first time we've been in the area at night.
Dino wears his black "cinque cento" shirt, and even the waitress comments on it. When we leave, the owner wants to show us his photos of cinque centos on his telephone. The new models of the popular Italian autos from the '60's are a big hit here, and will undoubtedly be loved in America as well.
Smartly, the new-ish head of Fiat has put together a deal with BMW in the U S to build the car, and perhaps next year you'll be able to see them in the U S. With a low price tag, look for these to be the antidote for high gas prices...
Sofi waited for us in the car, but has nothing to say on the way back, still reeling from all the noise earlier in the evening.
With some soft clouds in the sky, the morning begins peaceful and cool. While I fix breakfast, Dino waters a number of things that are not on the irrigation system.
After a breakfast on the terrace of coffee and cereal with ripe peaches, I stand in the kitchen at the sink. Sofi races in and looks up at me, making little expressive sounds to get my attention.
"Che successa?" (What's going on?) I ask her, walking toward her to give her a pat. She races to the door and I follow her. She must want to show me something. Between two of the planters near the caki tree, she races around, just looking, looking, all the while wagging her tail.
It must be a lucertole (lizard), I surmise. How sweet that she wants to share her discovery with me. Well, I can't see anything, but I'm sure it's a lucertole. Va bene.
Sofi stays in the house while we walk up to church, but the sky has turned dark. Everyone we meet tell us it will rain...this afternoon. We are without umbrellas, but it's such a lovely morning that who cares if we get wet?
The mass begins after a quick hug with Nonna Candida, who is seated in front of us. These days, Augusta is content to sit on the opposite side of the same bench. How things have changed!
Don Gianpietro is with us today, and the more we see him the more we love him. This priest is so full of joy that it is impossible not to become swept up under the arms of his cape. As he raises his arms on high, I wonder if some think he is a kind of latter day Elmer Gantry. Whatever he is selling, we are buying...
So I'm wondering...If those of us filling the church on this summer day are all believers, I now understand Papa Benedict's idea of "preaching to the choir".... Why not help the converted to become even more so, rather than to spread one's gospel thin and try to bring in everyone from everywhere? There is some merit to that, I admit.
When the mass is finished, Dino picks up his copy of the mass to bring it home. Don Gianpietro suggested during his homily that everyone take theirs home and read the daily gospels suggested on the back of the mass program. He tells us it will take no more than twenty minutes a day.
While he is saying it, I am thinking that I might take out our English language bible and read the passages suggested each morning. And I'm now amazed to find that Dino thinks the same.
We walk to the back of the church to leave and it is...raining! All of us huddle around the door like the "pick pick-pick-a-little" characters in The Music Man, chattering about the ugly weather. Well, it's not really raining. It's just the end of a shower. So we walk home and realize that the heaviest of the shower occurred during mass.
We'd planned to attend the once-a-month antique mercato in Gallese, and decide to drive there this morning, even though it is raining here. Perhaps it is clear in Gallese, and we have not visited the town before.
Gallese is a big, lumbering town, dark, ancient and practically untouched by the ravages of modern day restoration. So the Duomo is enormously tall and dark. Mass will begin here soon, for the bells chime out as we walk in the door, but there is only one man here, early to say a few prayers.
We drive around the town and ask someone about the mercato, only to find out that yes, the mercato is held the second Sunday of the month but that no, it will not be held this Sunday. Of course. Why did we not know?
We drive on to Magliana Sabina, where a pranzo is to take place today. But although we love the town, there are no people out, and there is no sign of a pranzo anywhere. It's been a lovely drive, so we drive home instead, after cappuccini in the local bar, to heat up yesterday's pasta with yellow peppers and basil and make a salad.
Dino tells me, "I love leftovers!" and I ask him where that began. But I'm thinking about the line in the Fantastics, "...that's why I love vegetables; you know what you're about!"
I do believe Dino will eat vegetables, but they need to be julienne, and added to a salad or other dish. So on this day he talks about working in the garden on the tomatoes and I'm happy about that.
But first we need to take out the linen we have left and figure out how large a canvas we can make with it; a canvas not too large to fit in the car. We agree on a canvas 140cm by 100cm, and then put a few photos together to show dear Felice holding a big basket of oranges on his shoulder as the subject. Perhaps they should be artichokes, but is this the season for artichokes? I think so. We'll ask Pepe or Italo.
I'd like to paint Pepe, and Italo, but for now I'm going to paint Felice. After all, we love him, and his larger than life painting in our kitchen will be a wonderful reminder. We do miss him, and once the canvas is finished we can remember the man we loved with joy, not the man he became when he lost his memory and most of his marbles...
The situation is so sad; we hear Marsiglia is doing much worse. Her feet are really in pain. What a sad life this must be for a couple whose joy and love for one another were so a part of Mugnano for all the years we have been here.
Dino and I work on cutting and pasting a few images so that the final form of Felice's painting takes shape. Tomorrow Dino will purchase two frames and at Marco's we'll stretch the remaining linen over them; one is for the painting of Felice and one is for a smaller image. Since we have the gesso di bologna and cola di coniglio, it's just as easy to prep two canvases as one.
The skies clear at around 5PM and Dino changes and begins his work in the lower tomato patch. He ties up all the loose stalks and returns to tell me there are plenty of flowers and even some green tomatoes. In a couple of weeks, the bounty will begin.
Dino ties up a few wisteria stems and then we work together on the roses, untangling the rose growing through the big olive tree. The rose is Daphne, and it has such a long reach that we're able to redirect it by moving one stem across the first section of the pergola and the second toward the garden sink.
I'm sure the rose has been aching for sunlight, and the olive tree is dense, since we no longer cut the center out of it. So perhaps it will find happiness here. This winter we may move Daphne, but for now we'll see what it decides to do.
There is plenty of lavender remaining to cut, but I'm weary of it, so weary that we may wait and when it is past its prime we'll reshape the lavender plants into balls and forget about the flowers. I can hardly imagine that we spent so many years growing as many as 50 plants at a time; cutting them and drying them all at once. I'm tired just thinking of it.
We end the evening under a starry sky and mild temperature, and expect the next week to be cooler than it has for the past month. Outside there is the strangest noise coming from the center garden. It is a spitting sound and drives Sofi crazy, so we expect the wild cats of Mugnano to raise a bit of noise during the midnight hours.
We wake up to cool weather, and it's such a surprise. Temperatures are not expected to exceed the mid 20's, with rain only expected to fall in the north of Italy, and for that we are thankful. Dino puts many of his beloved cinquecentos on the web site; he stops whenever we are driving to take photos of them, and they now flank the journal.
Drivers in Italy are mostly courteous on the superstradas. In many places there are still only two lanes, and so the fastest lane is only used for passing, or for those machismo drivers who want to drive as fast as they can for as long as they can. The remaining lane to the right is called the corsa di vergogna (lane of shame), or the slow lane, as we refer to it. Don tells us that San Rocco (Saint Rocco) is known as the patron saint of intercourse. So I look it up to be sure, for I am skeptical at the very least. I find Saint Catherine to be the patron saint of unmarried girls and Saint Margaret the patron saint of women during childbirth, Saint Andrew the patron saint of a woman's right to say "no", Saint Jude the patron saint of lost causes, but nowhere can I find Saint Rocco as the patron saint of intercourse.
But then there's Saint Nicolo as the patron saint of empty gas tanks....San Rocco is the patron saint of bachelors, cholera, diseased cattle, dogs, epidemics, falsely accused people, invalids, knee problems, plague, relief from pestilence, contagious diseases, skin diseases, skin rashes, surgeons, tile makers
Well, yes, we will do a study of patron saints and soon you'll be able to find a list of them on our site.
I'm going to make panzanella, or bread salad, today for pranzo. It's much tastier than it sounds. Then we'll drive to Marco's, where we'll stretch two canvases so that Dino can work on preparing them to paint. This time we surely will measure the liquid correctly. Dino drives to Viterbo to pick up the framing material while I work around the house.
Dino wants burgers on the grill, so tonight we'll have the salad. I'm still trying not to eat red meat, so at least stay away from the chips...
Dino decides he'll stretch the canvases himself, and drives to Viterbo to pick up the frames while I'm in class. He also takes a trip to Tenaglie to visit with Don and Mary.
I spend the entire session working on Fortezza's....foot. A foot is a daunting thing to paint, and now that I am beginning to understand the structure of the foot, I'd like to paint more bodies and faces and...feet.
We agree that the headpiece needs work. Since I am painting from a "study", I'll have to study Roman soldier helmets myself before attempting to paint one for real. Marco brings out a Caravaggio book, one that I also have, and shows me a photo of a painting of a soldier with big feather plumes coming out of his helmet. So before Wednesday, when I'll take a makeup class, I'll draw one out the size I'll need to use. It's all so simple when you think of it..
We drive home and work in the garden a little. Well, Dino works on his wisteria and I clip a little until I'm bitten. Insects like me. They don't like Dino. And when they bite me, my legs and arms swell up, so I don't last long in the garden, especially at night, which is their "witching hour".
The night is cool, and we've had plenty of wind, so sleeping is...can I say...a dream?
Today is a day filled with adventure and fun. Now that I keep a tiny notebook by my side, I can recant it, or most of the interesting parts, to you.
Very early this morning, I finished writing the submission to this month's Tuscia in Jazz in Soriano. GB emails me back to tell me I've saved his day. If you're a subscriber to Italiannotebook.com, you've already seen it. If not, we plant to post my stories on our site soon.
Don and Mary arrive at 8:30, and we drive off in the Alfa for our favorite "Canadese" pastries and coffee on the A-1 South. That done, we drive to Orte and then take the E-45 toward the Castelluccio Valley, stopping in Visso for another café and a quick visit to the marvelous church with an ancient painting stretching from the ground to the very high ceiling...at least 20 feet! Take a look!
We're back in the car and can hardly keep our secret to ourselves. Although we've been told that the Castelluccio wild flowers are at their peak at the end of June, we know that everything is a couple of weeks late in Italy this year.
A couple of winters ago we traveled here and discovered...Italy! Duccio and Giovanna were photo-ed in front. Now it's our turn.
But that was the Italy planting...The others the person tells us is a coincidence. We're still trying to get to the root of this and will let you know. No one will admit to it...It's so amazing one could not have made it up...
Further on the road this morning, we witness the process of "harrowing". As Donald explains it, harrowing refers to a huge machine with tine-like metal blades combing through rows of plowed grass; that machine is followed by a baling machine that picks it up, forms it and drops it out.
Well, Benedict and his sister, Scholastica, are featured as statues on the front of the main church, and when we study the history of the order with Pietro, who will conduct tours for his Norwegian friends with Dino, we'll be able to tell you more.
I know I'm a tease, but it's all really quite innocent. I often am the recipient of little flashes of information and reach out and try to grasp them as they fly by. Often I have to return to find out more, or study about the subject on Al Gore's internet.
This is a good example. So should I wait until I know everything about a subject before dropping a kernel for you? If you wait, I'll probably forget, and writing this down jogs my feeble, if not enthusiastic, memory.
We're all hungry, so sit at an outdoor enoteca called Beccofino and eat a mediocre pasta. Well, the pasta itself is delicious...it's the sausage and pecorino top that I can do without, but Dino loves it.?? Donald smartly orders the lentil soup, and of course Sofi eats her Cesar packaged meal, which she loves.
Dino orders what he is told is a local beer, named Magalotti. The beer's label is is Austrian, but when we look it up on the web at: http://www.birramagalotti.com , we find out that it was made originally in Terni beginning more than 150 years ago! Later, when I ask Dino what he thinks of the beer, his response is, "Quite good!" Let's find out more about it!
We let Sofi off her lead here, for there are no cars in the piazza and she stays by my side. After a walk into the famous church to look at the artwork, we walk a little more and pick up some lentils at this shop, where the prosciutto is beautifully presented.
Norcia is all about meats; if you've come to Italy you've seen delicatessen-type places featuring cured meats, often referred to as Norcerias. That name comes from Norcia, naturally.
So do you remember in an old journal that I've written about this flat, easy-to-walk-in town, with no building taller than three stories? Well, a huge earthquake leveled the town more than a hundred years ago, and since that time the town fathers decreed that no building could be built higher than three stories.
That makes for a beautiful town, surrounded by green, green hills, which you can view while sitting in an outdoor café almost anywhere in the town.
Around the corner from the enoteca, Dino discovers what he thinks is a real find: an ancient carved cement toilet, reachable by two sides. Mary and I don't want to get near it, but Don and Dino think it's quite....well...
After pranzo Dino, Sofi and I browse through a few shops while Don & Mary rest in the shade of Chiesa San Benedetto.
On the drive back, we're stopped outside a tiny tunnel with one-way traffic. Outside the galleria (tunnel) is a sign that reads, "possibile mezzo in avaria in galleria" (possible truck broken down inside tunnel). Now that's a trivia phrase!
So, how about, "Da quando un mezzo in avaria in galleria, fare un dolce fa niente fuori?" (Since a truck is broken down in the tunnel, take a nap outside.) I know. It's a stretch.
Just outside Terni, we come upon a second-hand maggazino, and this one is really basic. But outside there are some lovely succulent plants growing in pots, and I ask Dino to find out if any are for sale. They are not, but the woman gives us a blossom from one; one that Dino plants in the soil when we arrive home.
The Marmore Falls seem to explode off the top of the hill before we reach Terni, so we can't resist taking a few photos. It's really a remarkable site, don't you think?
Mary has been a real trouper, but all the sites we have seen, as well as the walking, must have tired her out. We do admit we love her; love spending time with both our good friends.
It's cool in Mugnano, and Dino inspects his beloved wisteria, then waters a few plants in the side garden. Has the hottest of the summer sun passed us by? We hope not. There are plenty of tomatoes just stretching, stretching toward the sun, and we're looking forward to the harvest.
Dino and I try the cheese made by Don's neighbor, Pietro. The smell of it makes me want to wretch. So now we know why Don wanted to know what we thought of it. Sorry, Pietro...
On this cool morning, I'm the first to rise, and after colazione (breakfast) I'll spend some time drawing the plumes for Fortezza's helmet.
Yesterday, we passed a number of fish farms, using the water of the Nera River to cultivate salmon, trout, shrimp and even eels. I'm thinking about the use of rivers, and I recall the locks in Alviano Scalo. There, the water of the Tiber River is held back during peak seasons as flood control for the city of Rome. Yes, that's me, dolling out a dollop of information again...
I'm also thinking of the names Italians give their children, and one of my favorites is Rosealba. What does it mean? If you're an opera fan, think Turandot and it's famous aria, Nessun Dorma. "Al alba, vincero!" (When the dawn comes, I will win!) So this rose is named for its delicate color at the break of day.
Be careful not to speed when driving on roads through small towns. Crafty workers, intent on raising money for their local Comune, erect signs that warn of speed control. If one drives more than 10km faster than the posted limit, a ticket for up to €150 or more will arrive in your mailbox a few months later.
Dino is now a more cautious driver than ever, adhering to any posted signs. It's difficult to see the speed "traps", the cameras set to take your photo. Often, Italians will flick their headlights to warn oncoming cars, just as they do in the United States, but more often than not, they don't. Beware...
I'm studying artichokes for the painting of Felice, for he'll be carrying a basket of them on his shoulder. The violet artichoke that we love originated from Southern France in the region of Var, near Cavaillon.
This is a very special variety, known for its superb taste and aroma and tenderness. Well, we were in the Var region of France in April, but had no idea how important the region is for the production of artichokes. Now that I want to paint them, I realize I've missed out on a great opportunity. When we were there, we didn't even eat them! Purtroppo!
In case you're interested to know more about them, here is a link that I found interesting. I'll be including links for things that relate to our journeys of the mind as well as the auto...
A British friend who owns property here is told he can obtain Italian residency just by presenting his British passport and health card. The woman at the local anagrafe (registry) office in Montecchio tells him she needs a copy of the British health insurance policy that states that the insurance is valid in Italy, too.
It's suggested that he "go over her head" to Terni to the local ASL (Local Health Unit) and ask if it is possible to have Italian health insurance, issued on the basis of his British one.
So we thought that being a EU national meant that the European Union treats all of its members as if they're all in one country, so that the regulations of one apply to all others. We'll drive with our friend to Terni to find out if this is true with respect to health insurance.
When our friend Pietro took his Norwegian card to the Bomarzo registry office, he was given Italian residency with no problem. But then, those poor people of Umbria (where Montecchio is located)...they have no beach. (This is a sentiment expressed by people of Lazio for bragging rights. The spiagga, or beach, is very important to Italians, hence Umbria's status with none of their own...)
Ah, so the Italians don't want to be treated "just like anyone else", even within the European Community. We'll let you know...
The weather continues to be some of the best summer weather we can recall, and I check the tomatoes, which have a few weeks before they'll be ready to eat.
The mild weather continues, and we sit on the terrace for breakfast before driving to the Questura in Viterbo for my finger printing. First Dino wants to find out about the schedule about Viterbo's baseball team, the Rams, and, it takes some doing.
Similar to what happened when he tried to find out about Brooke's basketball schedule at the business office of the team's sponsor, GESCOM, he turns the place upside down when walking into the office of Poggino Salumi, the cured meats company that sponsors the Viterbo Rams.
After talking with two different people, he is led to the team's website, where he's assured the schedule will be listed. http://www.ramsbaseballviterbo.it/index.php There's a game on the 26th in the morning, and perhaps we'll take it in.
At the Questura, we stand behind someone who is being waited on by the woman we like so much. We're here for an appointment for me to have my fingerprints taken, and wait behind a man who is doing the same.
There is a big mess about gypsy children outside Rome being targeted and their fingerprints taken, and now I am being treated just like...a gypsy! Everyone, I suppose everyone living here, including citizens, will now have to have their fingerprints taken. Take a look at:
When it is our turn, she speaks a little English and tells us she is studying Spanish but it is, "Oh, so difficult!"
I'd love to take her photo for the journal, but know that we cannot. She's very pretty. I do ask her what her name is and she tells us that it is Itala! So Itala, we'd love to take your photo to post on the journal, and now that you are reading this, do let us know if we can!
It will be about two months before our permessos are ready, for there is a new national department involved, where our fingerprints are transferred, along with our files. It is the polygraph office! Will we have to take a lie detector test next?
"Oh, do you really want to live here? Really?" What will they learn about us in a polygraph that they do not already know? We wonder because we were required to provide a certified copy of a police report from the U S stating that we have never been arrested there...
We stop at IPERCOOP for a little shopping, and I'm bargain hunting again. Goodbye, Lancome, after all these years. I pick up a toner for less than €3.50, versus about €18 for a similar product from Lancome. Is there really a difference worth the vast difference in price for similar products?
At home we have pranzo and then Dino works on the web site while I work on the painting of Fortezza. She calmly sits on a cloud, holding the head of a lion with a spear firmly thrust through it. For some reason, I thought painting clouds was difficult. But today I paint a different kind of clouds than I painted for San Vincenzo's painting, and these look good enough that I'm going to keep them as they are.
Outside, the sky is cloudy, but it's a beautiful day. Dino checks on the tomatoes, and none of them are ready yet. We'll probably have a lot to put up at the end of August, and that's fine with us, especially since we won't have many figs this year. Last winter we cut back the fig tree severely, for it was much too tall. So there won't be figs to process.
Soon our little oval plums will be ready, but they are so tasty that we don't process any of them; we just pop them in our mouths straight from the tree.
I clip more lavender in the late afternoon. Dino ties up more tomato plants as well as the roses that climb up onto both sides of the nearby fence. There are lots of tomatoes, and they are a pale shade of green, but not yet ripe. I am tired of the lavender, so half-heartedly clip an enormous bush and it is a big basketful. So we'll dry that for baskets and perhaps tomorrow I'll clip another large one.
But as the sky turns dark and the full moon floats right outside our front door, a dog barks in the valley to the serenade of a single grillo (cricket). I can barely hear a far off sound of a train as I climb into bed and nod off to dreamland.
I am so very bummed. As Pietro would say, "Can I say that?" I've just read about Barack Obama's trip to the Middle East, and the mere mention of the name Anthony Lake makes the hair on my skin stand on end. Advisor? Lake is a pompous, arrogant choice, and his "dissing" of Richard Holbrooke, who we are sure is head and shoulders above him, is enough to make me shut down the computer.
Senator Obama, you say that your cadre of foreign policy "experts", which numbers around 300, includes Holbrooke, but you've probably never even given him the courtesy of a phone call. Wise up. Take a good hard look at Lake and his past miscues and his arrogant attitude and then revisit Richard Holbrooke, a gentleman and a courageous fighter for the truth and diplomat of the stature and intellect and resolve you'll surely need.
I'm not in a good mood, which is not improved when we stop at the local Sarni stop on the A-1 for cappuccino. The place is mobbed by two tour buses of American college students and so we move on to a little bar on the E-45.
This is a better choice, and soon we're on our way to Terni to find a particular rubber "twine" and do some barbecue research. Our barbecue is failing, and perhaps we'll replace it instead of buying replacement parts.
We can't find the twine, and the search for the barbecue is frustrating. I realize that we need to plant the red and black cabbages, and need seeds, but remember after we've left Terni for home and can find none at Spazio Verde. Perhaps later we can try again in Viterbo.
We use the old grill for turkey burgers, and it seems Dino is intent on buying a new barbecue, now that the old one may not last much longer. So we drive to Viterbo in the afternoon, and have no luck finding the twine or barbecues, although we find a wonderful one that is too expensive, even if the discount is 30%.
On the way home we're both frustrated, and instead of arguing, I recall a phrase of my mother's..."Useless to talk, said the French spy." That's how I feel. So at home I'm silent, which upsets Dino to no end, and since Sofi realizes we're going to spray her for her monthly flea spray, although we're already two weeks late, she hides under the desk at my feet, wagging her tail but refusing come out. She's not happy, either.
Well, it's a beautiful evening, even if we have used all our cavolo nero seeds and they're really difficult to find. Cavolo nero is the black Tuscan cabbage used for ribbollita. We have a pack of green cavolo seeds, and it's almost past time to plant. Let's think about that tomorrow. Perhaps they'll have them in Fornole, on the far side of Amelia.
I still cannot get over the treatment Richard Holbrooke is getting (or not getting) from Barack Obama, and believe the decay of the U S election process has created a no-win situation.
I do applaud Al Gore, however, in his challenge to America to make all of its energy carbon-free in ten years. " The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk." He recalls JFK's challenge to put a man on the moon in ten years, and one landed on the moon in eight. So let our glass be half full...
"It is only a truly dysfunctional system that would buy into the perverse logic that the short-term answer to high gasoline prices is drilling for more oil 10 years from now," Gore continued.
To counteract the effects of global warming, Gore has pushed for policies that would reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, such as greater energy conservation and the development of alternative energy sources like wind and solar energy. Gore has also advocated for governments to tax the emission of carbon dioxide.
So what can we do? Drive less...use those ugly energy-saving light bulbs, consume less of everything...Perhaps we should even get a water filter and stop buying so much bottled water. We'll do the research...will you join us?
Just as we get ready for bed, a big round moon stares back at us. A cool breeze lulls us to sleep as crickets chatter away.
Dino drives off to buy a barbecue to replace the one we purchased eight years ago and moved here in a freight container. The old one is on its last legs, having done a great job. We use a grill often, during most months of the year. Some things in our lives don't change, despite moving here from San Francisco six years ago. Grilling is one of them.
The temperature is warm, but nothing above 90 degrees F. So we think nothing of being in the sun to garden. This morning I work on the "white" roses, but want to return to the painting. By the time Dino returns with a barbecue in a kit and we stop for pranzo, I've completed quite a bit. Some days I spend hours working on a small area. Today I work on the feathers of her headpiece and also the shawl that blows in the wind.
After pranzo, Dino puts the new barbecue together. Later in the afternoon we drive to Bomarzo for the 6PM mass, for Dino and Don and Duccio will drive to Norchia in the morning for a hike to the caves. I'm not a fan of descending steep inclines, so tell him I'll pass and meet them later.
Tonight is the opening of Tuscia in Jazz in Soriano. Since I wrote a story that was published earlier this week in Italian Notebook about the festival, we'll take in tonight's music in their beautiful square and see if anything has changed from last year. We like the jazz a lot, as well as the venue; like sitting with a cocktail in the open air while listening to great music. Sofi hates the noise, so she'll rest at home.
We return to one of our favorite summer happenings, Tuscia In Jazz in Soriano. Sitting near the bar, café style, the first group is a group of eleven high school students, the Folsom Jazz Choir. Roy is happy, for their sound is reminiscent of Singers Unlimited, a group he really enjoyed in his younger years.
The vocalist, a Neapolitan named Gegé Telesforo and leader of the group, could really give Ella a run for her money...He even pairs with the drummer to perform a piece in which his sounds mimic that of the nearby drums, sounds that are every bit as magical as the actual sound of the drums themselves.
Dino waters some of the garden while I fix breakfast, and then he's picked up by Don for their trek to Norchia with Duccio, while Mary waits in Bomarzo with Giovanna. Norcia, Norchia, what is the difference?
Norcia is the town in the Castelluccio Valley of Eastern Umbria, the town we visited with Don and Mary a few days ago. Norchia (pronounced Nor-kee-ah, remember "ch" sounds like "k" in Italian) is situated in Lazio. So about the caves of Norchia ...
Norchia is an etruscan necropolis near Vetralla, a town outside Viterbo in northern Lazio. Along the via Cloudia, it is close to another ancient town, Tarquinia. Norchia is an important stop for any student of archaeology, as it is one of the greatest and most spectacular of rocky necropoli in the whole of Etruria and Italy.
Dating as far back as the Bronze Age, the settlement, known at the time as Orcla, grew with the arrival of the Etruscans, reaching its high point between the 4th and 2nd centuries B.C.
Situated on a long and narrow tufa plain near the remains of a medieval castle thought to be owned by the Vico family, one can also find the Romanesque church of Saint Peter, dating to the XIII Century.
During the III century B. C., a high wall of the town was reinforced by the Etruscans, to allow access to the plain, previously unreachable due to an earlier lateral rockfall.
Norchia was known as the most powerful town in the whole of Etruria at the time; its perimeter was protected by the tall tufa wall and abundant water was easily accessible.
A consular road crossed the urban centre and became the main artery turning toward Tuscania after having passing Biedano over the bridge, where remains are still visible. At the top of the opposite plain is a deep quarry, over 400 meters long with walls over 10 meters high.
It's a short but quite steep walk down to the canyon, where cave sites can be found and explored. Not visited often, this site is an amazing, if not eerie one.
The tombs themselves are situated in terraces on the slopes facing the urban settlement. Those at the highest levels have detailed moldings, called dados, carved from the stone. Also a Finta Porta (fake door) can be found sculptured above plain doors or porches that have been dug out, thought to be access to another world.
It's hot, very hot today, with temperatures climbing to the high 30's (100 degrees Farenheit). The weather forecast on the internet tells us otherwise, so perhaps those hot days of summer have returned, and we are to ignore the forecasts.
Sofi and I join Dino and Don and Mary at Giovanna and Duccio's house in Bomarzo for pranzo; Giovanna always knows just what to serve. Today it's a curried chicken, and the recipe is one I'll surely repeat. Everything, including the conversation, is wonderful.
Giovanna serves a basket of bread with the cannelloni, and I ask her if she means to cover it over while we eat the pasta. Being a very intelligent woman as well as a woman open to new ideas, she waves her hand in a lovely circular motion so characteristic of her and tells us not to worry. If we want bread with our pasta, so be it!
We like these two couples so much; like is to mild a word for how we feel about them. It's a joy to be around them. Just imagine. It all started one night in the Duomo in Bomarzo when we arrived for a concert and sat behind Duccio and Giovanna. I bless the day...
We're back at home in plenty of time to watch most of the Formula-1 race in Germany. With Lewis Hamilton taking first place, Dino is happy.
We spend the rest of the afternoon quietly, with the shutters closed and the fan circulating, as if we're escaping from the truth: the horrid heat. There'll be plenty of time later to check on the garden and do some deadheading of roses.
The remainder of the lavender lays drying on tables downstairs; tomorrow we'll decide if we'll stuff it into baskets or dispose of it. I know it's a shame; but there is just too much to do around the time of the lavender harvest this year. Since I don't believe in guilt, I won't worry about it.
There is much on TV about the reduction in service on airplanes these days, and their cost-cutting due to the high price of oil. It seems natural that we are considering cancelling our November trip to the United States. Until things change with the price of the dollar, we may staying quietly at home.
Tonight we return to Soriano for the jazz festival. The program features the Massimo Davola Quartet with Massimo on sax and clarinet, Gegé Munari, the drummer from last night, a pianist, and Dario Rosciglione on base. They are all excellent, but we're not as excited by them as we were with Gegé's group last night.
Italo, the manager of the festival, tells us that the show is for the audience, but that the midnight-to-dawn sessions at a nearby traverna are for the musicians. We're not inspired to attend tonight, realizing we should have gone last night. If there's another outstanding group later in the week, we'll try to stay around.
Our friend Duccio warns us that when receiving a speeding ticket in the mail, don't ignore the second page of the ticket; the one that asks who was driving the car. Initially, crafty Italians bucked the electronic tickets by saying things like, "I was not driving! My son had the car....".
So the speeding ticket czars changed the rules to say that they'll now include a second piece of paper, on which the presumed guilty person will state who was driving the car. That's all well and good, but if one does NOT fill that out and return it, one is given a second fine for not returning it! Who is craftier now, the Italians or their bureaucrats? This is a war the bureaucrats are taking on with gusto. Stay tuned...
My story on Norchia is published today on Italiannotebook.com. So why don't I spend a little time researching and writing more? Last night, while waiting for the entertainment to begin at the Tuscia In Jazz festival in Soriano, we tossed ideas around about new stories. It was fun, and since I'm a "chronicler of local village life", I'm actually enjoying the exercise. Dino also loves taking the photos.
There's plenty of wind today, which makes the temperature seem cooler. We have some clouds, as well, moving in purple drifts as the sun settles low in the sky. For a moment earlier, when taking in the laundry, Nonna Candida and I chatted across the fence between our gardens. "Piogga?"(rain) I ask her.
"Penso no, ma brutto! (I think not, but it's ugly!)
Tomorrow we'll visit a friend in the countryside above Terni, for there is interest in her property. We'll also take lots of pictures and measurements. Of all the properties on our site, this is one I'd be interested in, if we weren't so in love with our spot in little Mugnano.
Driving up the hill, we're returning after a number of months away. The road undulates, causing the car to do a kind of dance around its gentle curves as we climb and climb; and with it the anticipation returns. I love this property; it makes me want to sing. Instead, I take a deep breath and then we're at the gate, with the owner reaching down to undo the lock and give us a welcoming embrace.
This morning there was a brief storm at home, and here the ground is wet. As the gate opens we look up and a big bright sun laughs down at us, telling us it will be a beautiful day.
The smells of the trees, the dewy grass underfoot, the birds singing, bring it all back to me, and then we've walked around the side of the house until...
We're stopped in our tracks. The view is enormous, hold your-arms-out-wide enormous and our arms are just not wide enough.
We take photos and meander around, and are captivated by the place, and then drive to Scheggino for pranzo and a walk around.
Just behind the borgo is a lovely stream and park, so Sofi gambols while we wonder at this tiny place, a place tourists just don't seem to know is here.
We drive back past the Marmore Falls , the largest man-made falls in the world! Since I write a story about it for Italiannotebook.com, you'll have to wait to see when it appears there.
It's good to be home, and we do some watering and tending of the wisteria, and planting of the cabbages, which we've picked up from Bruno in Attigliano. After all the hedging we do of planting seeds, the plants are ready for us at Bruno's, so in the future we'll visit him first and order them from him, instead. Va bene.
It's time to meet Don and Mary at I Gelsi for pizza. We never have enough time with our good friends, and soon they'll return to England, where we hear the weather is cooperating after a great deal of rain these past weeks.
Since Tuscia in Jazz begins late, we still have time to take in the jazz festival at Soriano.
Tonight the contest of the bands begins, but the first band seems to be an ego-trip for the singer, and we're wondering if her backup people were just hired for the night. Her voice is not bad, but she does not take any chances with her music. Let's see what the next group offers.
This group, the Mirco Rubegni Quartet, consists of a group of young musicians, and the festival's organizer, Italo Leali is known for his encouragement of jazz unknowns. We enjoy this group more, with Mirco at the trumpet really blasting out his notes. But we're tired, so don't stay to the end.
We spend the day working in the garden and on the photos and copy for yesterday's listing. The day is beautiful and not too hot, with a modicum of breeze.
Dino makes a covering for the cabbages, which we admit we plant mostly because they are beautiful. I'm not sure if I'll make ribbollita again this winter, although we have the cavolo nero (Tuscan black cabbage), which is used to make this dish. I'm sure we can make minestrone with it, at the very least.
We use our new grill, and Dino likes it, so will see what we can do about disposing of the old one. It's not good enough to take to the second hand store in Viterbo, so we move it to a corner of the parcheggio until we can get rid of it. Let's hope that is soon.
In the afternoon, while Dino works on the photos, I paint some of Fortezza. It's good to spend a couple of hours painting now and then, and I'm conscious of how important it is for the body and the head to not paint for more than three hours at a time.
In the early evening, just before we're ready to send the photos and descriptions of yesterday's property to someone who is interested in it, a call comes in from the owner, who tells us she won't sell. It's a disappointment all around, but these things happen.
We're sad, but understand. I'm not much of a drinker anymore, but a vodka and tonic with lime sounds good. So we reminisce a little and then move on.
The sky is clear, with only a hint of blue. So it will be hot. Enzo arrives to look at the water heater; he does this each year by law and collects a fee; this is a regulation we agree with.
Because it's not too hot yet, I work on the roses on the path, feeding them and deadheading them. These are lovely roses, Lady Hillingdons, http://www.classicroses.co.uk/roses/l/lady_hillingdon.html and as I clip away I can see points where new shoots and new blossoms will appear shortly.
This is one of the classic roses that truly re-flowers during the hot summer months. We have five of them along the front path, and each of them seems to love its location flanking the tall tufa walls, facing South.
Today let's write a little, and paint a little. The Marmore Falls story is done, so we send that along, and there's the story about the mummies of Ferrentillo and the story about traffic signs.
I also write about the trip we took with Duccio and Giovanna to San Galgano, where the origin of the many legends of King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone took place. I've written about it before, but here is some additional information on The Sword and the Stone.
After a simple pranzo, I take a nap to try to get rid of a headache. I'm feeling stress because of yesterday's bad news, stress that I'm hoping will evaporate with time.
When I wake up I do some reading and what I read does not give me comfort; it appears Barack Obama is moving to the center and losing his appetite for change. No wonder the election is looking dismal. Are people in the U S noting the change in his attitude and his ideas?
It's a cool and lovely evening, and Dino picks of some cakis (there are still some in the tree) and the plums are almost ripe. The wisteria is filling in, although it's lost its growth spurt, and continues to be a great addition to the terrace.
It's so wonderful to live here!
After a cool night, we wake to sun and early hours spent in the garden. Sounds of birds serenade us from every window and we sit on the terrace to enjoy a small breakfast and take in the view.
Dino drives less these days, for we're very conscious of the cost of just about everything. But today he picks up our prescriptions from the doctor's office, and we're relieved that we no longer have to meet with the doctor to obtain the renewals of our regular medicine. We call them in, and the prescriptions are ready for us when we arrive.
We're looking for an Italian equivalent to glucosamine chondroitin, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00189 or rather a place to purchase it here, and so far have not had luck. But the next time we have a doctor's visit we'll ask him if he has any ideas. Perhaps later today when we take Don and Mary to the airport we can stop at Naturasee (Spelling?). They may have what we need...
Last night we watched Barack Obama's speech in Berlin , and yes, we were inspired. I think inspiration is what we are all looking for, in these dismal economic times, no matter who we ultimately vote for. But is inspiration enough to elect a president?
John McCain is smartly concentrating on town hall meetings, where he is at his best. I'm still dubious about the election. My thoughts go back to Obama's words in last night's speech, in which he confirmed that things won't change with a new person in the White House. Sigh.
I hear a siren outside and open the shutters to see if it is an ambulance. Instead, it is the flower van, which arrives each Friday to sell flowers to the women of the village to take to adorn the gravesites of their departed loved ones.
I suppose Italo arriving with his fish truck can't be far behind. At least Italo plays funny Napolitan folk music. Now I'm more attuned to the sound of the cicadas, which strike up their one-note tune after the loud noise subsides and the birds, which now sound less lyrical, more combative, as if to protect their turfs from these ugly raspy-sounding creatures.
There is always gardening to do, and today I find a pepperoni (bell pepper) turning from green to red. It is a meaty one, and perhaps we'll have our first red pepperoni in the next days. Dino is not a believer in planting these in our garden, but I am hopeful. There are six plants, so perhaps we will have some more gems soon.
That's more than I can say for the sedano (celery). For some reason, even though we start them with little yoghourt cups as jackets to protect the initial fragile stalks, the stalks taste soapy. One year we had great success with them. Perhaps it was because they were our first. We had no expectations. I'm recalling a line from the Fantasticks: "A man who plants a garden is a very happy man!" It's really true.
These days I have lowered expectations about many things. I'm appreciating more, critical of less. Giovanna does not want to attend the jazz festival or Steven Roach's concert tonight in Bassano, so we drive there by ourselves, finding a close parking spot, for Dino has great parking karma.
The little church, Antica Chiesa S. Maria dei Lumi, is a great place for singing, for its tall ceiling embraces the sounds and helps them to roll about. Tonight's concert is called "Opera Gala Concert" and consists of pieces from Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana.
Steven Roach is at his best, an impresario in this tiny town who knows how to bring music alive! He's active with the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, but his love is here in Bassano, where he and his partner Alvaro founded Borgo Musica a number of years ago.
"Europe is gripped by a world-weariness that resists American dreams." That's the New York Times, writing about Obama's visit to Germany. I perceive that the world is weary of American egotism, elitism and is no longer infatuated with the American way of life. We share that view.
I'm sorry to say that I don't have the excitement I once had about the election; nor do I care about the outcome. We will vote absentee because we consider it a right and a privilege, but since we choose to live in a country thousands of miles away, our thinking should not matter. Even Obama cautions that conditions won't change much, no matter who is chosen for the next president. What a sad commentary!
This morning we share a sweet breakfast on the terrace, to the sounds of birds and mostly silence. With the wisteria continuing to grow, Dino plays with it now and then, but no longer has the infatuation he had about it when it showed its first growth spurts. It continues to be beautiful, even without flowers.
It's not too hot, so Sofi joins me while I deadhead roses; perhaps later I'll feed them a dose of osmocote. I enjoy puttering around today, and when I'm through, take out my paints and work on Fortezza. Dino works on the next canvas, and I'll be ready for it in about ten days or so.
I'm concerned about Fortezza's throat, and recall the counsel of Marco, telling me to take my time and use a soft brush to pat some of the paint. I make a few changes, and by the time Dino arrives to put the burgers on the grill, it's looking better.
This afternoon I'll work on the feathers again, and perhaps the dress. Spending a few hours now and then seems to work. I'm enjoying it more and feeling less stress in my shoulders.
GB from Italiannotebook.com emails me that he'll come to the Soriano jazz festival tonight, so it will be good to finally meet him. I'm surely enjoying the writing, thrilled when a piece of mine actually is chosen for a daily quip.
A stab of pain in the back of my head stops me momentarily, but I take my cocktail of migraine pills and am sure I'll be better in an hour or so. I want to get back to the painting...
Fortezza is moving along nicely. I have finished her pants and tomorrow will work on her dress. The more I think about it, the more I want the coloring to be subtle. The idea when looking at it is for it to exude a peaceful and secure countenance. She has felled the lion, holds its head securely with her spear, and wants us to know that we should not worry; she will protect us from all harm.
Once again, we went to Tuscia in Jazz in Soriano tonight and we're glad we did. The Jimmy Woode Award competition is still going on and will through Sunday night. There were two groups tonight. The 1st was not very good but the 2nd - WOW! They are four young men, two of which are brothers, from Germany called FUMMQ. They were selected to go to the finals on Tuesday night and each of the 4 artists were nominated for "BEST" in their respective categories: contrabass, sax, drums and guitar.
People in our village are very friendly, and with the exception of two families who continue to be at war with each other, expecting the rest of the village to take sides (we refuse to take sides, liking them both and think their feud is silly), everyone gets along...even if "la aria parla" (the air speaks...meaning everyone knows your business).
I use the large fan given to me by Giovanna in church, and fan it between us, so that Dino also receives the benefit of a little circulating air in the otherwise airless building.
At home, I lie down for a couple of hours, and am feeling better in time for pranzo, so do a little cooking inside and Dino does a little grilling outside with the new grill, which works fine.
We watch a silly movie, and then Dino takes a nap, while I paint. I've finished Fortezza's top and skirt, worked more on the feathers of her helmet, and perhaps tomorrow will work on the lion head some more and also the feathers. I'm almost ready to begin the painting of Felice holding a basket of artichokes on his shoulder, and look forward to that.
Dino is just wild about the old Fiat cinque-cento automobiles, and by now you've seen photos of plenty of them to the left of this journal on our site. He likes to take photos of them, stopping in traffic or alongside them parked on the side of the road, or anywhere. He even had me take one the other day as it passed us, with my window open and me leaning out the side.
It's a funny diversion, don't you think? When BMW's partnership with FIAT sets up its assembly line to build them in the U S, you'll understand. The new version is very, very cute. It will be an enormous hit, we are sure, and perhaps will be marketed in the U S in a year or two.
We have overcast skies and a couple of rain showers in the afternoon, so I tell Dino I don't want to attend the jazz festival tonight if the skies continue to be overcast; the winner will play again on Tuesday, anyway.
The crickets are VERY LOUD tonight as I turn in, and their sound is almost as annoying as that of the darn cicadas. Somehow their noise doesn't bother the birds, who are silent. It is as if the birds are saying, "We chirp all the day long, so for a few hours at night you can take your turn..."
With a warm beginning to the day, Dino works on the computer while I paint. He's so in love with those cinque-centos that he can't wait to post the photos almost as soon as they're taken.
I work on painting Fortezza's eyes, and after experimenting for a few days, think her expression is calm, just as I'd hoped. With the clouds below her and a little more work on the headdress to do, she'll be finished by this weekend. In the meantime, Dino puts one coat a day on the canvas that will soon be the beginning of Felice and his artichokes, my next project.
In the afternoon, Dino has an appointment in Bassano, and when he's through we drive for a visit with Tony and Pat in Lugnano, for Pat wants advice on how to cut her lavender.
It's really not difficult; cut the stems before the flowers are fully opened. They can be cut with shears or scissors, for the stems are quite thin. Once a first cut is done, do a second kind of shearing to form a round, but don't cut into the brown areas. The plant will continue to grow, and next year you'll have a fuller plant. But for the meantime, the ball that is formed will look beautiful until next spring, when stalks and flowers appear.
You can make wands while the stems are still soft and pliable, or strip the bottom leaves off and hang them upside down in bunches in a dark, cool room to dry. Afterward, they can be put in baskets or arrangements.
GB publishes my quip today on the tree plantings in the Castelluccio Valley, so take a look if you don't already subscribe to www.italiannotebook.com/archive
We visit Tony and Pat in Lugnano, and on the way home note that the sunflowers along the road appear to be in prayer, their tall necks and huge heads hung down as if in some great sadness. By the looks of many of them, they've lived their short lives and are just waiting for the grim reaper to cut them down.
With a forecast for rain, the wind acts up and suddenly there are dark clouds overhead, but nothing happens other than a heightened humidity and yes, another headache.
Tonight we'll return to the Jazz Festival; the master class performs tonight, and that should be fun. Although we think the students will perform, it is their professors who get together, and tonight is more of an extended "jam" than a regular performance. If we had the energy, we'd follow them down the street for more jamming.
Instead, we drive home to Sofi and dreamland.
It's warm this morning, and I remind Dino that there are a few tomato plants that need staking. Yesterday, I walked out to pluck some basilico, and there are plenty of tomatoes, but none of them are yet ripe. Soon, very soon...
Dino leaves for Montecchio and Guardea, for meetings and a visit to the Comune to ask about ICI tax. The Italian government is certainly missing out on money that they need; a law passed in May decreed that people who own properties in Italy and have permits to stay or citizenship will not have to pay any tax on their first house.
He also visits with the geometra, and learns that our client's geometra from Castiglione del Lago may be overcharging for his work. Perhaps our client will change geometras. Whatever they decide, Dino will oversee at least some of the work.
Sofi and I stay at home, and by the time Dino returns for pranzo, Fortezza is all but finished. I'll give it another day or so, then we'll hang it up until we find someone who just has to own it. Before leaving this morning, Dino put another coat on the new canvas. We need a large sheet of carbon paper to trace the outline of the next design, so perhaps we'll pick that up tomorrow in Viterbo.
Candace and Frank and another couple will join us tonight at the jazz festival in Soriano. I'm looking forward to it, but more looking forward to a nap this afternoon.
I also work on a couple of stories for Italiannotebook.com, and a comment about yesterday's piece is forwarded to me. It's fun to get these messages from strangers.
Dino tells me that a property in Guardea that I've yearned for for years is for sale; perhaps we'll have a look. We know someone who just might be interested...
Tonight is humid, very humid. Luigina drags herself down the street to feed her chickens and we commiserate while I'm deadheading roses above the path. But there's no sign of rain. Even the clouds look hot.
Let's ignore the humidity: tonight is the finale of the jazz competition of Tuscia in Jazz in Soriano. Italo Leali is the Director of this festival, and since we've attended a number of nights this year and last, it is obvious that the young musicians mean a great deal to him. The camaraderie between the festival's experienced and young exuberant musicians is very real.
Although the president of the organization is renowned bass player Georgio Rosciglione, who is there each night and gives the festival a great deal of support and guidance, it is Italo who is seen as the muse, whispering tidbits to the experienced musicians in the audience who have been choreographing the festival's Master Class as well as cajoling the young musicians.
For the past eight nights, we've seen and listened to two groups a night in the Jimmy Woode Competition, and tonight the final judging takes place before an audience. Italo, as Director of the Festival, sets the tone and lets us know this is serious business: this year's festival is dedicated to his great friend, drummer Bobby Durham, who passed away last month. If he were alive, he would certainly have been here jamming with his pals. As we wait for the entertainment to begin, we're reminded of Bobby's great performances last year as the music from his C D rolls out through the giant speakers flanking the stage.
The first prize in tonight's competition is the €1000 Jimmy Woode award, named for another departed base player, whose daughter Shawnn Monteiro is one of the great voices of jazz and participates actively in the festival. We recall that her sentiments to the audience echo that of last year; play the music. If jazz music is not played, jazz will die out as an art form. This is a clear warning from all who have come before us: don't forget us. And tonight's overflow audience has no intention of forgetting any of it.
After listening to one piece from each of the eight final bands, we've made our choices and wait for the judges to decide. In front of us at a long table, jazz masters we've seen during the festival take this role as judges seriously; when a particularly adept drum solo is given by Vladimir Kostadinovich during Baobab Ensemble's piece, the old masters in the audience hoot and clap their hands. There is no better reward for a musical artist than the praise of a master musician.
Well after midnight, individual awards are given for the best: trumpet, guitar, sax, voice, piano, drums and bass performers during the competition. They are:
Trumpet: Mirco Rubegni - Mirco Rubegni Quintet
Guitar: Vitaly Zolotov - FUMMQ
Sax: Magnus Mehl - FUMMQ
Voice: Chlor Cailleton - Ease for Sunrise
Piano: Francesco Marziani - 0761 Jazz Quintet
Drums: Vladimir Kostadinovich-Baobob Ensemble
Bass: Fedor Ruskov - FUMMQ
The Jimmy Woode Prize for Bands:
Third Prize Karim Bual Trio
Kenny Barron , who will play on Friday, seems a thoughtful kind of guy; do I detect a look of nostalgia when he's asked to give the award to Francesco Marziani? I suppose it's a right of passage. In this case, Francesco will clearly be a person to watch.
We are fortunate that when the blank ballots are handed out to the judges tonight, Frank puts his hand out for one and perhaps he is thought to be a judge. And that is how we have a ballot. Next year, Italo, it would be great if the ballots were handed out to the audience to follow.
Although we're home just before 3 A M, we're sure the jamming takes place until dawn.
We sleep in until about ten, and it's hot. Dino drives off to pay a bill at the post office and shop in Viterbo, where he'll pick up the giant carbon paper for the painting of Felice that I will outline before beginning to paint, perhaps tomorrow. Earlier he sanded the canvas, and when we inspected it I deemed it the best-looking canvas yet.
I send out an email to Candace and Frank with last night's jazz festival winners, and sit down to write about it. Italo Leali, the director of the festival, is a real gem. His exuberance is infectious. This is not a job for him, it is a mission...and for that, the festival is quite fortunate.
Over the years, we've come across people like him, people who have such a great love of music or film or dance that they are seen as impresarios for their entire careers. Italo is that kind of guy. Last night, he told the audience that jazz music and these festivals should be free.
Vergogna (shame) on the Umbria Jazz Festivals of this world, he told us, who obtain great amounts of money from the province or the state or private sponsors and also have steep fees for tickets. This festival is free. The province and a few generous sponsors make the festival possible. And it is in large part to the town of Soriano who makes the venue ad ongoing success possible.
Was it not so many years ago that George Rosciglione started the festival in Ronciglione? The town missed its chance to be the long term venue for the festival, a chance that Soriano picked up gladly and now is seen as the festival's home. With all hotels booked for the period of the festival, the town is clearly the winner.
Will Soriano become Mugnano's Comune? We are still waiting to hear. Right now, our tiny hamlet of 80 people still reports to Bomarzo. Wherever Bomarzo goes, we will follow. We could do worse than have to report to Soriano. The law that consolidates small towns and villages into towns of at least 5,000 people is at least ten years old, but for some reason the smaller towns ignore it.
It's a very hot day, and I add a couple of buckets of water to supplement the hortensias(hydrangeas) that are on our irrigation system. In hot weather they are incredibly thirsty. But we stay inside for most of the day, waiting until after 6 P M to take a look outside.
Tonight we return to the jazz festival, after I've written a story about Carsulae , the archeological site above Terni. Wendy should be working at the site now; we'll have to check. In a week or two, we'll take Tiziano with us and visit her there.
If you are an Italofile and appreciate archaeology, this is a place for you to visit. Hopefully soon you'll see the story in italiannotebook.com; that is, if you're a subscriber. Yes, that's me, reminding you again to subscribe. If you're willing to read all my journals, you can at least read a short quip each day about another interesting place or story about Italian culture: www.italiannotebook.com. Thanks and do spread the word.
We attend tonight's jazz concert in Soriano, after meeting Ivandro in the square and walking around the corner to his palazzo. The front of the house and the door are a treat; he tells us the building is four hundred years old. But he tells us that an insurance company bought the building as an investment hundreds of years ago and therefore there is a stemma of a lion above the door. Grrrr.
We love the iron railings, the beautifully polished castagno wood banister, the graceful staircase. In Ivandro's case, we walk up a couple of flights of stairs before reaching his family's entrance. Inside the floorplan is unusual for such an old building...some of the walls of the upper floor were lowered to create a kind of balcony over the lower floor. It's an intriguing plan.
But it's his studio that we're here to see, although in the rear courtyard Dino can't resist taking a photo of Evandro beside his 1972 cinque-cento. It's the 1st photo on the left column of this page.
Ivandro loves trains, and he shows us his train paintings, as well as a few others. He has a wonderful library of art books; I could certainly gain inspiration there!
We walk back to the square and sit at a table to wait for the concert to begin. Ivandro's wife and one daughter are out of town, so he joins us for the music.
Tonight is a good concert, but we're not particularly in love with the choices of music. So we leave about a quarter to midnight and pass Bomarzo at the witching hour.
It's good to be home, and with the lower temperature we think we'll have a good night's sleep.
Last night, our friend Ivandro asked us the derivation of the word jazz, as he sat with us listening to the music on stage. We said we'd look it up, and here is one of the sources: http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/27/messages/759.html It's another hot day, and while Dino drives off for a meeting, I work on Fortezza. She's almost finished. I'm in kind of a funk today, and ask Dino if we can stay home tonight. He agrees, and we spend the evening quietly. For most of the day, I've been painting, and I'm pleased with the results.
But in the afternoon, after opening up the shutters in the kitchen to let natural light in, I put the new canvas on the kitchen table and slowly draw Felice and his basket of artichokes, the subject of this tall painting. He's life size, so it should be fun to paint. By the time Dino returns from his errands, I've finished, and for the rest of the day and evening we just hang out.
PROPERTY OF THE MONTH - NEW FEATURE! Each month in the journal we will feature one of the properties for sale on our web site. This month's property is a beautiful fully restored town house in a small village of a few hundred people. Take a look!
EXPATS DON'T FORGET TO REGISTER TO VOTE Important note to those living outside of the US about voting in the US Presidential Election in November. Even if you've voted in the primary, make sure that you are registered to vote absentee in the state and county where you last lived in the US. Follow this link for more information: www.VoteFromAbroad.org
Dino leaves for an appointment and I'm itching to get going on the new painting. But first, I put the finishing touches on Fortezza, and move it to the other room. I'm still not happy with her eyes, but need a break from it now. I'll return to it again in a few days to take another stab at painting her eyes. In the meantime, we'll hang it in the entry hall.
Here it is if you want to take a look:
By the time Dino returns, I've redrawn the hand holding the basket and worked on the basket itself. The large blowup came out so dark that I need to redraw some of it, especially the hand and the top of the basket. When it's done, I take out some hair spray and give the whole piece a "shellacking" to hold the markings. Now it's ready to paint.
With salads on the agenda for pranzo, I'm looking forward to later today, when I'll put brush to the canvas for the first time. The canvas is so tall that Roy needs a C-clamp to hold the top in place. The size is larger than the easel will take. How tall is it? Well, it's 140cm long, and that's about how tall I am (5 feet) and 80cm wide, or 39 1/2 inches. No wonder I have to reach up to paint the topmost point, since it stands on an easel. Now it's set, and for at least the next month I'll work on it almost every day.
"Is he smiling?" Dino asks, for Felice always smiles. I'm wondering what the neighbors will think when they see it; Dino wonders what Felice and his family will think when they get a glimpse. It's approximately life-size, and I'd like to hang it in our kitchen as a loving reminder of our dear friend, for we miss Felice; we so miss the evenings when he'd come by and check out our garden and tell us a story.
These days, he sits inside his house in Bomarzo, not knowing whom the woman is who has spent more than fifty years with him and sheds tears when she's able to speak about this man she no longer knows. We've only lived here for six years, but oh, how the village has changed. Some of the people we loved most are gone.
This is a reminder to cherish each day, each person we love. Yesterday in a call to Angie in Rome, we spoke about gossip. And I told her that I don't gossip about people these days. If I don't have something kind to say about someone, I just won't say anything. It's a good practice.
We're looking forward to the jazz concert tonight, starring the The Kenny Barron Trio trio. Kenny is a masterful pianist of the old school. When he played the other evening, he began with a tune that Ahmad Jamal played often. The arrangement at the beginning was pure Ahmad Jamal. And then it became Kenny's. Playing with him tonight are: Kiyoshi Kitigawa on bass and the amazing Francisco Mela on drums - as a matter of fact, all 3 of them are truly memorable artists! We couldn't find a lot of info about these two artists on the www, but try to see them if they are at a venue near you.
A couple of years ago, Ahmad Jamal played at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia. He went on at midnight, so we did not attend, but I surely wanted to. If you don't know his music but love jazz piano, check out his music. My favorite "album" is Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing. I've played it thousands of times and have owned it for longer than I have known Dino.
Jamal was interviewed on NPR a few years ago, and I recall vividly that his take on what makes a piece of music special is its arrangement, in addition to its melody. If Jamal is known for anything, it is for his masterful arrangements.
Tonight we are not disappointed, and are joined by Giovanna as well as Phil and Carol from Orvieto. Here is a shot of the Kenny Barron Trio. We're home before 1 A M, and imagine the jamming in Soriano going on until dawn.
Dino leaves to shop in Viterbo, and to take some photos to someone in Orte. While he's gone, I work on the arm holding up the basket on Felice's shoulder. This canvas will take many coats of paint, so this morning's exercise is not a dramatic one, although I realize the drawing of his hand is still not accurate. I work on changing it with the brush, and now it's accurate.
These days I wonder about how I will improve without returning to Marco's bottega, at least for now. I think I will be all right, as long as I remember his counsel, painting in the kitchen with plenty of natural light, and the SKY symphony channel to keep me company. Marco leaves a message that there will be a dinner at his parents' house (where his bottega is located) next week. Perhaps I will tell him then that I will be taking a hiatus for a while.
I stop when Dino returns, and we close the shutters. After pranzo, Dino watches his Formula 1 trials, which are in Hungary this weekend. For me, it's time to rest and read, for tonight we'll be out very, very late at the jazz festival. Before we drive out of town, we have a meeting at Paola's, to give her directions to their hotel in Glen Ellen. They leave this next week for the United States, and we hope they'll be able to see Terence and Angie and the girls next weekend in San Francisco. We surely miss them. Yesterday we were asked if they will be here this summer, and we sadly said no.
Tonight we arrive in Soriano to participate in its Notte Bianca, and just before 8 PM the town is already crowded. By some magic or luck, we are able to find a table at our favorite Caffé Centrale in a good position to see all of the main stage, and strike up a conversation with someone who knows who we are. He's lived in Italy for five years and is involved with the festival. He knows about the Italian Notebook story, and that I wrote it. It is a small world.
During the evening we speak now and then, and it's the same old story: politics in the artistic world. He gives us a decidedly different look at the festival, one that we'd be happier not knowing about. We've worked on so many Boards that the thought of the internal bickering makes my eyes cloud over.
Why do people work within organizations that don't pay them? Is it ego? Is it for the common good? Is it to further one's dreams of an ideal world? We're not sure, but do know that our involvement in these groups is no longer of any interest to us. We cherish the good memories, and there are many, and just gently blow the rest away.
I do admit that knowing that the organization is looking for money to expand and to subsidize their Master Class, I have a twinge of interest. But it's just a twinge. If you're interested in knowing more about how you can help the festival financially, send me an email and twist my arm.
We sit tonight with Diana Winter, a young folk singer / guitarist who plays and sings for an hour on the main stage, and she and her friend share a table with us. Here are a couple of photos of Diana on stage. They leave just before midnight for a drive to Salerno for vacation, and remind us that this is the heaviest weekend for auto travel of the year in Italy.
We see and hear some truly great music tonight by several bands. Here are a few shots of the evening....
We survived our first Notte Bianca in which we actually enjoyed the scene last evening, and look forward to tonight's finale, a master jam.
This morning we walk up to mass, and it's a strange one. A bird, one that we call a passeri and Italians call a nido flies inside the church, and at least one woman cowers behind her bench mate while it dive bombs around the room.
Augusto tells us the bird's arrival is an allegory; we are not sure for what. But it seems to like the sounds and the air inside the church, so when we leave at the end of the mass, he's still inside. Twice the main doors of the church were opened to encourage him to leave, and it's so much cooler that I'm hoping that the main doors will be left open during Sunday mornings on these, the hottest days of the year.
Italians, especially Italian women over "a certain age", wear wool sweaters, even in the summer. There is something about perspiration that makes them feel better and a lack of cold air to give them a cold. Will I think this way some day? One never knows.
During a short visit with Paola Fosci at her house in the borgo, we talk about Nonna Candida (she is Paola's actual grandmother), who has just walked out the door. She almost always wears a sweater. Perhaps that is why it is called a "sweater". Boh!
I hear the phrase "to come to terms..." often on English speaking news channels, and wonder if the phrase is used in Italian. It translates to: "venire a patti". I understand the venire (to come) part, but not the patti. Patti means "the pact". I suppose it translates...Can you venire a patti with that?
I work on Felice's painting, focusing on his arm, and the tiny holes are still there, so next time we need a few more coats to prepare the canvas. This one is fine, because I put a number of layers on to simulate the skin, and before I'm through I'm hoping it will look realistic. Now Marco does not like realistic paintings, but I'm doing this on my own. So we'll see if I want this to look as realistic or not...
We're both looking forward to meeting a woman in Guardea to look at her house, and you'll see the photos soon of her property, including the ample garden.
After pranzo, Dino sits and watches the Formula 1 race in Hungary . Sofi and I spend the time upstairs, writing and napping. The hot weather outside continues...
The property we visit late in the afternoon is a wonder. This is the first time I recall that Dino would like to own one of the properties that we list. We'll not put it on our regular site, but if you're looking for a property let us know.
It's a handsome late nineteenth century five bedroom, two bath Italianate house with a large garden in move-in condition and the price is €400.000 (four hundred thousand euros). Think yummy and a very affordable price for such a special property.
Because it's still early and we don't want to disturb Sofi, we stop at Paola and Antonio's and give them information about their California trip in a few days. We're sure they'll have a wonderful time.
Once in Soriano, we're early, but the tables are almost all taken. Evandro and his brother Massimo sit with us, and it's a memorable evening of jazz. The night begins with a piano performance by one of the stars of this year's Master Class, a 14 year-old virtuoso from Romania, Toma Dimitriu - remember that name!!! He also is sitting at the table next to us and he asks Dino to take his picture on stage with his camera. This shot is from Dino's camera:
We hear the sounds of earth moving equipment, and are curious about the property that is near the cemetery. There are caves and we're sure Etruscan objects to be found there when they dig. Perhaps we'll take a walk there later when the weather cools off.
We never make it to the property I just mentioned because we're tired and it's hot. For me, it is a black day. So I continue the day in a kind of a funk, and paint much of the black background of Felice's painting. Some days are just like that.
We finish the photos and description of the great property we viewed yesterday and set up a private site for it. And it's a nothing kind of a day. But a nothing kind of a day in this little paradise is still pretty special. I consider us very fortunate to be here, so I'm not really complaining.
Each night, the sounds of crickets lull us to sleep. It is a kind of breathing sound that is clearly repetitive, in-and-out, in-and-out. Other than that, and the sound of the floor fan, it's silent around here late at night. Even the drummers of Soriano are silent, choosing to take a vacation from practicing. Va bene.
This morning my bad funk continues, and it's joined by a headache. Not even two doses of Tachipirina resolve it, and by evening I take another difmetre. By the time I go to bed I'm feeling better.
Dino works on the web site, while I paint. Layer upon layer are painted on Felice's arm, and by the time I stop to fix pranzo, the delineation of his fingers are more pronounced.
Dino loves salads with lots of things in them, so I fix him a big bowl of the things he loves and he is happy. Earlier he took some time to work with the wisteria, and removed the two rolls of bamboo covering the pergola. Now it can grow on its own.
When the sun is clearly low in the sky I open the kitchen window shutters and return to painting. I stop at about 8 P M, and shortly thereafter Paola and Antonio arrive, bringing the itinerary for their U. S. trip with them. In an emergency, we'll help Pepe to call them.
They are the first to see the progress of the painting, and after they leave Dino and I agree that we may show the different stages of this painting, in case anyone wants to follow along with us.
Here's the progress as of today:
The night is inky-black. I love the color of the sky late at night. It's almost imperceptible. I love the smell of the recently-watered plants, the sounds of the crickets, and the physical motion of my upper body as I stretch myself out the window as if I'm a bowsprit.
Each night is the same, and each night it is different.
Someone will look at one of our properties today at noon, and another on Friday evening. Dino will meet them, and I will stay home and paint.
Last night when Paola and Antonio came by, we had a discussion about the loaf of bread they gave us on Sunday. It made delicious toast. Antonio then explained that each April they make what's known as a "mother" by using flour and honey. It takes a number of weeks to process that correctly, but once they have it, they then begin to make the bread. So they use this "mother" as their natural leavening, hopefully to last a year, and that's it.
Each week they make about a dozen loaves in the bread oven located in the cantina below their house. When they return from their trip, we want to join them to watch them make the bread, and then I will write a story about bread-making in Mugnano for the notebook. Let's hope we remember...
Paola's father, Pepe, gives us white and wine vinegar, and we enjoy using it; perhaps when we learn more about the bread we'll also talk with them about his vinegar. Now we know vinegar is easy to make...some of the local wine tastes like it!
It's another hot day, and the lettuce is really showing it. We need to cover it up just as we cover the cabbages, which are growing beautifully in the raised bed above the parcheggio.
I spend most of the morning painting, making real progress on Felice's arm and drawing out the artichokes. Somewhere I have a bunch of photos of artichokes to guide me, but where are they? After pranzo I do a search, which uncovers many things I did not expect...but still no artichokes.
I finally find them right where they belong...in the sleeve with the "Photoshopped" image of Felice with a basket. So I draw them in, and then paint them, but after a first try add more to the basket. Is Felice over-loaded? We'll have to see.
I have to have my wedding ring resized. It's too small. So Frank and Candace have someone they recommend in Orvieto and we drive up to their house in the borgo. Va bene.
We take a walk with them and the woman at the little jeweler's shop they recommend tells me my old ring is very small. We agree on a size and ask her how it will be made larger.
Since it's not a big change, she sends it out to someone who heats it and somehow eases it out. So there's nothing to change, no piece of gold to insert. Dino's message inside is intact.
I'm shocked when she asks me if the ring has diamonds or cubic zirconia. Later Frank tells me it's impossible for even a jeweler to tell if he or she does not use a formal lens. I tell her we'll come back, then decide she might as well do it.
Should I worry that the person resizing it could replace the diamonds with zirconia? I am really silly. It's not as if we're going to sell it.
Frank tells us that the marketing of diamonds is all a sham, designed by DeBeers. So we've left the ring with her, and if she changes the diamonds to glass, whoever gets the ring in my will will have something to wear, but not to sell.
I'm missing painting, but enjoying the day with our friends, enjoying the stroll along the Corso in Orvieto. We run in to Walter, who asks about Sarah; he always does.
There's a funny scene with Candace and Walter; something comes up where she'll have to fight with the Comune about something and it's decided and agreed by Walter that he should accompany her. He agrees. But then he's such a mild mannered guy; you could push him over with a breath of air. We all have a laugh.
We're invited for pranzo, and Frank makes a batter for the zucchini flowers and fries them in grapeseed oil. He is the best researcher around, and tells us it's the best thing to use to fry something at a high temperature. The flowers surely are delicious.
Dino does a little project for them, and then we drive home, by way of Guardea, to make a reservation at the Gnocchi sagra for this weekend; it may be their last of the year and amazingly we have not attended once this year. We think it's the best sagra around.
At home I spend a couple of hours on the painting, working on the artichokes. Dino and I decide to take out some of the artichokes, and we like it better with fewer sticking out of the basket. I do love to paint, and enjoy this new project immensely.
The Olympics begin today, a date picked by the Chinese because it is supposed to be good luck. Italians are very superstitious and do not believe in good luck. Instead, they will say, "In boca al lupo" (in the mouth of the wolf). The proper response is always "crepi lupo"(and that the wolf dies), or "crepi" for short.
With the world watching, I am fearful that there will be a terrorist attack. But we will watch...
This morning I do some touch up on Fortezza. I also change Hildegarde's hair, but am still not happy with it. With Felice's painting waiting on the main cavallo (easel), I take some time out to see if I can finish these to my satisfaction. No. I'm not satisfied.
Hildegarde's hair is wilder and darker, but I don't like the tones of her skin. So that will be reworked. Fortezza's expression is a little blank, so I'll rework that as well. Take your time, I tell myself. I will finish them the way I want them to look, but today is not the day; perhaps tomorrow.
Today we'll watch the opening ceremonies after pranzo and it is hot. So it's good to stay inside. Tonight we'll pick Lore and Alberto up and drive to Guardea to the gnocchi sagra, meeting Candace and Frank there. We'll also walk by the house we are listing in Guardea. It certainly is special, but we are not showing it on our site, unless there are potential buyers, for a number of reasons.
I'm itching to get back to Felice's painting, but perhaps not today. If I paint more than four hours at a time I get pains in my shoulders and then a headache. It's sure a challenge getting older...
The gnocchi sagra is wonderful, and the weather is cool. After cena we walk to see the new property and look over the fence at the garden.
On the way home, we stop at Walter's in Sippicciano for gelato. Donatella's house is for sale again, so we'll re-list it at the lower price.
It's a nothing kind of day, and the weather is hot and humid. We watch the Olympics and as the morning ends a headache returns.
I sleep away most of the afternoon and then get dressed to go to a festa at Matthew and Terri's in Amelia beside the pool. We're hoping there are no jinks to throw people in the pool, but do love their property and look forward to seeing old friends.
It's a lovely night and the setting at Matthew and Terri's is beyond compare. About two dozen of us sit near the pool in a covered area with a beautiful open fireplace facing the pool, feasting on pizza made in their pizza oven nearby. The fellow they hire is supposed to make the best pizzas around. They are really tasty.
We are the first to leave, around midnight, and we leave on a high note. Isn't that the best way?
Dino is the shortcut king. He tells me that when he was a teenager and had to do errands for his father's film business, he learned all the streets of San Francisco and the easiest and quickest way to navigate any of them. It's a habit he continues to this day.
Finding a scociatoia(shortcut) is the way he gets to know a town. Locals joke with him that he knows more scociatoias than they do. Last night, when driving the back way to Amelia to Matthew and Terri's, we took a wrong turn on a very bumpy road. But in a minute or two he found his bearings and navigated our way right to their door.
This morning we walk up to mass, and it's quite hot. Don Giampietro is our priest, and he is such a happy fellow that just being in his presence makes people smile. He opens his arms wide for us, holding us in his embrace, while he speaks to us of love and generosity and of Maria, whose Assumption is later this week.
He also encourages us to stand and talk with our neighbors in the piazza outside the church after mass. He is quite a guy.
Back at home we change and I work on Felice's painting, spending the day working on painting cariofi (artichokes) in a large basket. By the time I stop later in the day I want to leave the carciofi for several days, wanting to move on to Felice's face. There's plenty to do in the painting, and I'm interested to see what kind of expression his face turns out to have.
At about 9 P M we drive to Giorgio the mechanic's, where we pick up Pietro's car. We'll pick him up tomorrow from Fimucino airport, but want everything to be ready for his return. Unfortunately, Pietro left the refrigerator on and the door open when he left in June. So tonight Dino goes inside to turn it on and discovers it's been on all the time, and all the ice. It will be a good job for Pietro when he arrives tomorrow...
I turn in early, and fall asleep reading to the sounds of the crickets and a dog in the distance.
Today our dear friend Pietro, who we consider a member of our family, returns from Norway. We leave just before noon to drive to Fimucino to pick him up, and although I woke with a roaring headache, a cocktail of medicine brings me back to life just in time.
It's past time for pranzo when he meets us, so we drive nearby to the seaside town of Santa Severa Santa Severa to L' Isola di Pescatore for a decidedly memorable meal. The weather is hot, but its casual shack atmosphere with its huge windows open to the beach and the sea beyond is a perfect setting.
Sofi has already eaten her pranzo, so she sits by my chair as a table with a fresh blue and white checked tablecloth is set up for us right inside the door. Pietro orders a bottle of house white wine right away, and it comes in a bucket to keep it cold. I know. It should probably just be cool; but it's so hot and the white wine is "della casa" (house white) that we want to drink it refreshingly cold. As Hank, an old boss, used to say, "So sue me!"
The colors in our view are crisp and bright. Blue sea, white sand, tan skins, bright bathing suits of every conceivable color, meld with the fresh salty breeze to make me want to take off my shoes and step into the sea. But I'm hungry, and Dino and I settle instead for Bucatini con cozze e pecorino, a thick pasta with a red sauce of mussels and...shaved pecorino cheese!
We laugh about it with a man at the next table, for we ask him what he is eating and he tells us it's what we are going to have. Dino can't wait to tell him that driving laws are suggestions but that food laws are specific, and cheese served on fish is a "no-no" of the highest caliber.
"Yes," he tells us, but this is a specific dish, in which only Pecorino Romano will do. There we are again. The Italian rulebook of exceptions is far larger than the rulebook of what to do. It's worth messing with the food laws to have this dish.
After pranzo we take a few photos of the nearby castle for use in an upcoming Italian Notebook story. We're always looking for ideas for stories, although I have about a dozen ideas of stories ready to be written.
Piccolo scherzo is a little joke. Dino has many of them. The phrase has me thinking that I'll take a day when I'm bored and make up a usage list of phrases, in addition to our dictionary, for people who are coming to Italy often or are settling here, to help them to navigate the Italian language.
We drive home up along the coast past a couple of Roman aqueducts and stop so that Dino can take a few photos. Look for that story soon...
Pietro is so happy to be home. Sofi is also very happy, and we spend the rest of the evening relaxing in front of a fan. Today has been in the mid 30's (think 100 degrees), and although I'm happy it's summer, it's difficult to spend much time outside.
I have an appointment with Giusy this morning for a pedicure, and look forward to it. No, I don't enjoy having someone work on my toes, but I do love our conversations, conducted only in Italian and usually about spirituality or philosophy.
Today Giusy looks stressed, and she tells me that her mother is in a casa di cura (nursing home) in Bomarzo, and she visits her each day. Because her mother is very ill, my suggestion that she hire a young woman from Romania, as three Mugnano families do for their elderly parents, is not an option. Giusy tells me she just lies there in bed, and it takes two people to move her.
"Is it expensive?" I ask her. "Molto" is her response. How sad for this dear woman. On a happier note, she is taking a tour to Thailand and Bali in October, and asks me if we'd like to join her. We cannot, but because I traveled to Thailand decades ago, I look at her itinerary and suggest that she see if her tour guide can include a boat trip on the river outside Bangkok.
I found it thrilling; the sounds of the noise and the colors and the excitement of life on the river, with the people living in their boats and trading and selling their fish and things they prepared on their boats are real eye candy.
I meet Dino outside and we return home for a few hours. After pranzo we turn the painting on its side so that I can paint the artichokes near the top. I thought artichokes were easy to paint. Am I surprised! Although I want to move on to Felice's face, it will be a few days before I'm satisfied enough with the artichokes to move on.
"What color should Felice's hat be?" I ask Dino with guarded optimism. "Tweed!" is his response, and I swallow hard. This is turning out to be some adventure, the painting of our dear friend. Painting the colors and intonations of a tweed hat are a real challenge. Now working on the artichokes seems easier. Va bene.
Giusy has given me some exercises for my head and neck, and after doing ten of them I feel decidedly more relaxed. If I can remember how to do them and do them each day, perhaps that will keep the headaches away. It's worth a try.
We're invited for cena at Lore and Alberto's, and Lore tells us the meal will be held outside. So bug spray before we leave is a good idea, although there are far fewer bugs this year than usual. I'm not complaining, but am surprised, for we've had a very wet spring.
The three of us walk up to Mugnano Alto, and the borgo is full of noise, bicycles and children having fun; the adults sit around on benches and gab. Sofi can't wait to scoot by them and we walk around back to Lore and Alberto's corner.
Tonight we are served a wonderful meal of dried prosciutto and melon, a cold rice salad and stracciatino (a sautéed finely sliced veal with arugula) and then a torta with visciola (tart cherries). Afterward we sit outside under the moon.
When we walk back through the borgo, everyone is still outside, and we agree to come up to watch tomorrow night's film, An American in Rome with Alberto Sordi. A big sheet has been hung up and it should be noisy and fun.
There is a spectacular sunrise, navy blue and an orangey-red, that I glance at from the bed during a bout of sleeplessness. By the time I get up, Dino has been out puttering in the garden for more than an hour. He loves the peacefulness of it, the cool freshness of the morning.
Dino may begin his own blog. I don't know if this is creating a monster, but he has things he wants to say and things he wants to take photos of - mostly vehicles or characteristic road signs. The signs are old yellow signs, pockmarked with rust, signs that are being replaced by larger, easier to read cartelli. When checking out this name, I see that a road sign is known as a cartello stradale, which makes sense.
Dino asks me to pick the tomatoes, and this is the first day we have any to pick, other than the "gigantes" from plants we purchased at the Montecastrilli market in late April. Since we only sprayed the rame sulfato (copper sulfate) a few days ago, some have blossom end rot, and I should have known better. Now that Dino knows he needs to spray earlier in the season to prevent this, we'll do better next year.
It's a sweet harvest, don't you think?
I'm back working on painting the artichokes, and hope to be finished with them in a day or so. I'm also doing neck exercises, so perhaps I can prevent any headaches.
The other day, we asked someone if we could send them an email. Italians call an email a posto electronico, and use the verb mandare (to send); the term mandato posto electronico is frequently used.
Dino reminds me that there is a difference between the words incendio and fuoco. This is fire season, and Italians have no concept of the danger of throwing a spent cigarette out the car window. Fuoco is a fire, and incendio is the word used to set something on fire. Incendio doloso is the term for arson, and I suppose that means that many Italians are unwitting arsonists.
For a couple of hours this morning, I work on painting the artichokes, and decide to finish them before beginning to work on Felice's face. It works better to do some painting and let it dry for a day before adding another layer. So I'm consciously forcing myself to slow down.
This afternoon I have an appointment with Daniele for my hair. I do miss my friend, Leah, from Mill Valley; she is a fine hairdresser. But now that I'm a simple countrywoman, Daniele's work is just fine. It also costs only €30, which is less than half it would cost in Narni or Amelia, and four times less than it would cost in Mill Valley...
The experience is a strange one, because the "salon" is in a room of Daniele's parents house, and there are people coming and going the entire time, with lots of talking and much laughter. While Daniele is in the middle of doing a woman's hair, he stops to go to the kitchen and brings back her husband a bottle of ...Budweiser!
It all works out fine and I have no complaints, except that it is so hot that I can't wait to get into the air conditioned car for the drive home.
We're going to a cena at Carol and Phil's in Orvieto on Friday and are bringing a salad. So our tomatoes will have a chance to star...We won't have as many as I originally imagined this season, for there aren't many on each plant, but we'll have plenty to eat, plenty to put up for winter.
We're starting to research growing plants hydroponically, for we'd like to begin growing tomatoes inside in a controlled environment. That means that we won't have room for any guests late this winter, but perhaps we can find room for visiting close friends to stay nearby.
As the sun begins to set, the sky is pale violet in the distance, and I'm wondering if the beautiful color is caused by smog. It's a kind of haze, the differentiation between hills marked by colors and shading, as if I'm looking at a painting.
Downstairs I'm mindful of the artichokes in the basket, those closer are lighter and those further away decidedly darker. We've agreed that I'll return to Marco's a couple of times in September, to have him look over my shoulder and guide me on the facets of the painting I am not sure about. I take the canvas off the easel and stand it up in front of the fireplace, and it is truly tall.
We walk up to the borgo at around 9 P M, for the film, An American in Rome with Alberto Sordi, is being shown on a big white sheet in the piazza. Sofi joins us and it is a really silly movie; one Italians watch over and over and still love it.
The scene where Alberto Sordi is eating leftovers in the kitchen is a classic, Dino tells me later. The people behind us are roaring. Giuseppa talks all the way thought the movie, chuckling at each thing he does and commenting on it, but she's so dear I think she could talk through mass and I still would not be impatient with her.
The noise of the projector is loud for Sofi, but she acts pretty well, spending most of the evening at our feet. But the funniest thing is that Francesco set up the DVD player and sound system and when he inserted the movie, it began to play with the image flipped on the screen, the subtitles reading backwards. No one complains! People are so grateful that there is any entertainment at all that they put up with any quirks. But then we are a happy and quirky village...
Now those of you who know me well know that I can read upside down, but reading backwards is a new challenge for me. I'm able to read some of the subtitles, but Dino loves it that the Italians drive with the car on the left side of the road in this film (it was before the change was made) and that the man they choose to be an American is really English.
We're told there may be rain tomorrow and that's a shame, because it's Ferragosto, the iron day of summer, and Italians all celebrate. Perhaps the storm will blow over quickly; at any rate we're prepared.
Dino drives to Tenaglie while I work on the painting of Felice, and the bank is closed for the holiday. He returns with groceries and walks out to the summer kitchen to put things in the freezer to see that it is...not working. He's not happy.
After some investigating on the internet, he decides that we can turn the temperature up to its highest setting while he begins his search for a new one. That's a bummer, but we'll manage. The freezer will work for a while...
He drives out to begin his search, while I continue to work on painting the artichokes in Felice's basket. I had no idea they were so difficult, but I am enjoying it tremendously, especially since I'm doing some neck exercises a couple of times a day.
We're hearing a little about the U. S. election, and we're less and less interested in it all the time. I'm wondering why the Russias and the Chinas and the Indias of this world don't step up to the plate and send their troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Oh, it's about democracy, yoU. S.ay? I'm tired of fighting the fight for democracy. Did I say that? I'm not tired of it; I just think we Americans pay too heavy a burden.
I've just read that Julia Child was a member of the OSS during WWII. Can you imagine? Was THAT the secret ingredient she put in her bouillabaisse? I know that Dino loves reading about WWII. Perhaps there will be numerous books coming out about the OSS, now that their personnel records are being made public.
These days I'm reading Marlena De Blasi's book, The Lady in the Palazzo , and it's a great read. I love her writing; love her attitude toward cooking. Now that she's writing about the Orvietani, there'll be interesting reading about her new town, a town whose residents we long suspected to be insular and snobby. That is, except for our good friends, Candace and Frank, who couldn't be more down to earth.
It's Ferragosto, and the few clouds in the sky appear as if dragged by a lazy painter. I can tell it will be hot, by the lack of color above the near hills, which appear a dark yellowy green, almost indistinct in the early morning light.
Dino wonders if the borgo is full of summer residents and visitors; he told me last night he thinks the number must swell to over 120. But few cars can park near the borgo, so I doubt it. On festa days they are lined up past our house, and today there are no cars around.
I pick today's current crop of pomodori, and they are gnarled and beautiful. I'm thinking of them on a pasta, freshly cut with basil in a garlicky olive oil, uncooked and magical, with plenty of black pepper.
Of course I paint this morning, but until the painting is finished we won't show any more of it on the site. The painting is so tall that I sit down now to paint Felice's face, and have no headaches. So standing is what is a problem for my back and neck, I now believe.
Tonight the skies are dark, and the wind whips through the valley as we leave for cena at Carol and Phil's in Canale, outside Orvieto. We reach the house easily, and they are kind enough to include Sofi, for their property is totally fenced and there are no other dogs. She's in heaven, sniffing around a few logs to see if a lucertole hides underneath.
We had no idea, but tonight is freezing cold! It's windy and around 16 degrees Celsius as we leave to drive home. Brrrr. Tonight was fun, and not counting Sofi there were twelve of us. It's fun to meet new people: a winemaking couple from Holland, and an Italian couple round out the mix that includes Doug and Colette and Candace and Frank and Phil and Carol and us.
I bring some of our heirloom tomatoes and make a salad, but the real star is Carol with her brownies, soft in the inside and so very rich.
The sky clears and we watch a nearly full moon as we drive home, warming up in the car.
Today is a day right out of an Italian movie. Or is it "Babbette's Feast gets married in Italy"? Our dear friend and retired Lutheran priest, Pietro, officiates at a Norwegian wedding held at a private estate outside Pienza, has asked us to drive him and to include Sofi in the mix.
Norwegians are an interesting lot; almost everyone here speaks English, and none of the people we meet today have any airs about them. The couple whose daughter is married today own the estate, a Tuscan marvel restored over the past twenty years to elegant simplicity. We are so very happy to be flies on the wall...
We are made to feel a part of this marvelous family, although we try to be as unobtrusive as possible. The mother is a well known Norwegian filmmaker, the groom is a filmmaker in Hollywood, and a number of the guests are somehow connected to the film industry, so we're right at home talking with them. One Hollywood director even knows dear cousin Cherie's name from her Disney and Paramount days, but has never met her.
Immediately after the ceremony a christening of the one-year-young daughter of the couple takes place. She can't get enough of her mother and is pretty traumatized by the whole event. The priest tells everyone that this christening is a new birth for the child, so a little hollering is to be expected.
Almost every man wears a tux today; the women are so beautiful and beautifully dressed that we can't help capturing them with Dino's camera. It's as if they've just stepped right out of a magazine.
The lovely bride with her trailing net veil and Hollywood glamour gown and baby in her arms throughout the afternoon are a Madonna and child look-alike, Hollywood style, but where is the groom?
The best thing about the meal, eaten at this trattoria at the far end of the piazza, is the wine... a 2007 local red for the price of €6! It's from a winery called Podere Tre Case and the bottle is simply called a rosso di fattoria. We'll surely return soon to pick up a case. Buying directly it will probably be €2 or €3 a bottle. We'll let you know.
It's good to be home, and we settle in. The weather is beginning to cool down.
This morning is humid, but not as warm as it has been. We walk up to mass, and a couple visiting from Roma sit in our regular seats, so we sit behind them. Pietro joins us and after mass he tells us he'll see us later in the week. It is good to see that he enjoys his privacy in his little bit of heaven in Mugnano.
Right after returning home there is a call from a friend, and a friend of theirs wants to see the property on the border of Tuscany and Lazio. After a few calls, we're able to arrange a meeting at noon, and before pranzo we've shown the property and returned toward home.
Dino wants to eat subito (right away), so we stop in Bolsena , and I agree because there is a property there I dream about. It is on a plane tree-lined street close to the lake, and before we have pranzo Dino sees someone come out of the house and talks with him. He is a grandson of the owners, who don't rent the house out. Va bene.
Mark my words...some day we will have a connection to this property....
We find a place to eat at the lake, Il Gabbiano, that will allow Sofi, and feast on plates of the local corregone (lake fish) and red tomato sauce over a local pennette pasta. It's wonderful. On the way to the car we stop for a little gelato, and why not. It's summer, and summer means gelato...
Dino wants to process pomodori tonight, and after he checks we have just enough tappi (caps) and jars. So he puts out a long table in the loggia and covers it with an oilcloth, given to us years ago by cousin Cherie. The summer pomodori factory is in session!
We complete our first processing tonight, of six medium sized jars of heirloom tomatoes, and by the time we're through Dino is ready to process some more. But I want to eat some of those luscious heirlooms, so we hold about eight of them back. Tomorrow there will be more ready to pick, and in the next two days we'll process the next batch. Let's try that fresh pasta I've been thinking about...
I'm looking forward to calling Marco tomorrow and to returning twice a month to his bottega. We think it is an excellent compromise.
But tonight we talk about two dream projects on our property. The first is closing off the front gate to the house and making the side gate just before Pepe's garden the entry to the property for outsiders. Dino wants to fill in the front steps and gravel over the area where the stairs are now and take out the short side iron fencing. We'll then have a landing built in front of the front door, with a balustrade facing forward and two steps to the left and to the right. The wisteria pergola fits right in to the plan.
My dream project is a covered pergola in the center garden, 5 meters by 4 meters, in the area bordered by the old and new cherry trees and a meter or so in from the gate to the far property. It will be made of large castagno poles, be covered with flat bamboo on the roof, and of course wisteria will grow up and over the structure from each corner. It will be an outdoor room with a gravel floor, one that I can use for a studio in good weather and there is plenty of room for a table and chairs. Since the house is small, this would be another "room" that we could use for all but the coldest and rainiest weather.
Where would we be without our dreams? With no ability to complete either project, we can dream about them, refine them, and perhaps even complete one or two of them before we're old enough that we don't care anymore.
Dino awakes early, and so do I. He waters around the front of the house and putters, as he likes to do each morning. I think he is happier than he's ever been, and as I look out the front bedroom window at fog laying low in a valley beyond two hills past Orte, I can feel a cool breeze. The weather has turned decidedly cooler. Can fall be far behind?
I call Marco and he seems happy to hear from me. I'll return to his bottega next Monday for a twice a month session. In the meantime, I'll continue to work on the painting.
Candace calls and their tomatoes are ready to process, so they'll come tomorrow evening for their first session of the season. Afterward, we'll eat a simple pasta with the uncooked sauce I've been dreaming about.
Today I pick more pomodori, as well as about eight peaches, which are quite large and will finish ripening in the kitchen window. Perhaps we'll process again tonight, for we have more ready for the glass jars. I'll also make a peach dessert for dolci.
While I'm doing research on the best way to avoid the jars filling with the watery part of the tomato juice, I see that there is major flooding in the Grand Canyon and a dam break. Locals Paola and Antonio are there for three days, and as soon as we think they'll be awake, we'll call them to make sure they are all right. What an adventure they must be having!
While Dino is at a private factory that makes handmade floor tiles, to take photos of the process for a story I am writing for Italian Notebook, I walk out to the garden and dream about the pergola project. I also take stock of our roses and have made the decision that our best behaving roses are the "whites" and the "Jude the Obscure".
So any roses that aren't performing very well in the center garden will be dumped, and any new ones will either be Paul Lede or Jude the Obscure. There will be a row of lavender planted on either side of the path to the far property, and otherwise less box, more gravel, and wisteria for the pergola. Madame Alfred Carriere will stay, but anything else is in jeopardy. I feel exhilarated!
Dino has ordered a SMEG freezer online, and it should appear this week on a truck from Northern Italy. I'm expecting it to arrive late in the day, so that the trucker can have a cena at nearby Roscio, where the truckers love to eat.
We hear from Mugnano neighbors Paola and Antonio that they are having a wonderful time in the Grand Canyon, but no mention of any problems due to the nearby dam burst. Instead, they tell us of a rain that has cooled and refreshed the magnificent place, and forward several photos. What a wonderful trip for them!
Here's a shot of Paola peering into the Canyon.
We end the day with time watching the Olympics, which are grand, and reading about the U. S. politics, which are less so. Neither candidate strikes much of a chord, but then the world is so complex that it would take a master magician to wend our way out of the economic and philosophical mess the U. S. is in.
Dino takes Pietro to Viterbo to buy screens at OBI, and I ask him to check on the status of the Macchina di Santa Rosa . This week I'll write a story for Italian Notebook about it.
While having colazione on the terrace, we talk about the wisteria overhead, and try to imagine it this winter without any leaves. So Dino agrees to wind a few of the fronds around particular iron sections facing front. I am thinking back of the wisteria at Auberge de Soleil in Napa County, CA; one old plant was so gnarly and huge that it seemed to hold up the entire building. I think that was the first time I remember being enamored of the plant, and now can't have enough of it.
My shoulders are sore from painting, so there will be none today; instead I think I'll take a snooze and do a little cooking before Candace and Frank arrive.
The nap never happens, but instead I come up with a dessert that later receives raves. There are fresh peaches from the garden, so I pop them in boiling water for a few seconds to easily peel off their skins, slice them and put them in a bowl.
Then I take three eggs, separate them and put the yolks in a double boiler with 3Tbsp. sugar and whisk them until they're frothy. I add 3Tbsp. Amaretto and whisk the mixture while it's cooking until it thickens. I take the pot off the heat and as it cools stir it now and then.
When it is cool, I add it to the peaches and refrigerate the mixture until it's time for dessert. I whip about a cup of cream, add a few Tbsp. of sugar and when the peaks are formed, gently fold in the peach mixture.
Serve it in tall glasses or in bowls, and it's dreamy.
Candace and Frank arrive, and they have a lug of tomatoes; well it's about half full of really beautiful ones. So we process theirs and a small batch of ours and then sit down for the fresh pasta I've been dreaming about.
The tomato juice is tantalizingly dark and I'm instantly hankering for a Bloody Mary. Everyone agrees. We have fresh dill, so Dino mixes up a batch and they are so good we have seconds. Now every time Candace and Frank come to process their tomatoes we'll have Bloody Marys to celebrate our collective harvest. Come no?
We cook up a box of Bucatini, the thick long strands, and when it's al dente, put it in a big glass bowl with chopped heirloom tomatoes, chopped basil and plenty of grated cheese. Don't forget ample gratings of salt and pepper and plenty of olive oil...and a minced garlic clove. You can tell I'm not much for specific recipes but if you read this through a few times you can figure it out if you want to write it down.
We sit under the stars at this point and I serve the dessert... to raves. It's a really marvelous thing to serve, and so open-your-mouth-wide creamy; the Amaretto and peaches and whipped cream rolling about your tongue until it's gone and there is a hint of sadness because there's not a drop left in the bowl. It's a poignant moment; a hankering for the next time it's served and now I know that it's my signature dessert.
Only those of you who knew me as a child remember my nickname. Yes, I did have a nickname as a child, originated by Uncle Herb as he glanced at me in Saint Margaret's Hospital in Boston just after my birth. "She's a peach!"... And so Peachie became a nickname I could not shake.
Eva (pronounced Ava) is the name locals call me now when they are not calling me "Ai-VANNA!", so let's leave it at that.
August 20 The hot August weather continues, but mornings and evenings are wonderful, so we eat colazione on the terrace and talk about blocking up our front gate and moving our gate to the side entrance. This afternoon Dino will meet with the geometra at Pietro's regarding a future project there, and he'll ask then what we need to do.
The response is that we need a permit from the Comune, so Roberto will do the research, for we're not thinking we'll do it right away. These things take time.
After watching some Olympics, and doing a little writing on an Italian Notebook story, Dino travels to Pietro's house to help him to install a screen on a window. There will be more screens, and more help and that is fine with me. We love Pietro and love helping him.
I open the shutters tonight for my customary evening activity and the breeze is fresh and cool. No matter how hot the days become, the evenings are blissful.
This summer we have hardly had a day with temperatures above 37 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Farenheit), although each day this week has surpassed 30. Closing up the shutters and windows during the day sure helps.
This morning I continue working on painting Felice's forehead and chin. I look forward to returning to Marco's on Monday for another opinion and a few ideas, but mostly enjoy the day-by-day changes in his face, as I apply layer upon layer and shading from shadows to sunlight.
Dino works with Pietro to install screens on his windows, and after pranzo and a nap, works on the wisteria and also takes the freezer out of the box delivered a few hours ago. We ordered a small freezer online from a company in Northern Italy at the beginning of the week, and it arrived promptly by truck.
Dino returns to help Pietro install one more screen, and then drives to Viterbo for shopping. I work on painting Felice's face, but stop work at about noon and will leave it until I bring it to Marco's on Monday afternoon. Felice and I both need a rest.
The cabbages we have planted are thriving, although late at night slugs come out and take bites here and there. I ask Dino to go out with a flashlight before he comes to bed and put salt on the critters, but we've not had luck in the past days. I remain hopeful.
Look for my story on the Macchina di Santa Rosa any day now. Perhaps Monday. I'm working on a couple of other stories, and it is good for me to do and helps GB at the same time.
Beginning tomorrow we'll watch the Democratic Convention, so fall can't be far off. I like what I read about Joe Biden, but am feeling lackluster about the choices. There is no U. S. political advertising here in Italy, so we have to consciously want to know about politics to keep up on it. Yes, we'll vote absentee, but not with any passion.
Paola and Antonio are back from their U. S. trip, and will come by tomorrow afternoon or evening for a visit and to tell us about it. Pepe came by earlier to tell us they're back and to show us his new hat from the U. S.. It is great fun.
Dino mocks up the passageway between Pepe's orto and our parcheggio, using our front gate and two adjoining panels, one on each side. It's not particularly attractive, but will work. It should not look like our parcheggio gate, Dino assures me.
So I shrug my shoulders and give him my ok. We're hoping to turn our main entrance to this side gate and to block up the front stairs and entrance. Let's see if we can, and what it will cost.
I take a look at the Felice painting, and it looks like a cartoon style in its current state. He is happy, as indicated by his raised cheekbones, and I'm happy with that. But the look of the painting is too modern, and Marco can advise me how to change that. I'm looking for more of a classic style and yes, I want it to look realistic. It's all so complicated, but so exciting at the same time.
I read that Italy is poised to overtake France as the largest producer of wine grapes this year, the first time since the 1990's. France expects to have the worst harvest in five years, I am sure because of all their rain. Italy is expecting production to be up.
Here's what I read from (ANSA) :
"Italy is therefore set to exceed the 46 million hectolitres that the French agriculture ministry has predicted from vineyards in France this year - a 10% decrease on the average yield over the last five years. ''Italy will now conquer first place in European grape production as well as that of rice, tobacco and fresh fruit and vegetables,'' Coldiretti said.
"The farmers' association also forecast a good quality harvest this year, with around 60% of grapes destined for wines with labels of guaranteed and controlled designation of origin (DOCG) , controlled designation of origin (DOC) and typical geographic indication (IGT)."
I have stopped working on the Italian News section of the blog, frankly because it's boring. If you'd like to read about Italian news, look up (ANSA)
and bookmark it. Italy is a farming nation, to be sure, and we like that; we love seeing the fields and the farmers working the land. I also like learning about farming and how it's done. We know so very little about it, and soon we'll let you know about how the locals make their local bread...If only they would add salt...
It's dark outside, and the crickets serenade us as if we have one big cricket, breathing in and out, in and out, in unison. I'm reminded of the huge chorus in Nabucco, singing Il Pensiero. That's it...."We proudly present the crickets of Mugnano with their version of Il Pensiero...."
Joe Biden it is, although you already know that. He's a flawed candidate, but aren't we all? Perhaps it will bring some energy to the U. S. Presidential race. It's difficult to be enthused, so I'll think of our life in Italy, instead.
A few days ago, Dino picked about six peaches from our tree. They are large, yellow and streaked with red, full and sweetly rich inside. Each morning we share one with each other over cereal eaten on the terrace.
I place them in the kitchen window as if they're little trophies, hoping to catch the sun's rays to finish ripening. These days the sun is lower in the sky, and we wind up not closing the shutters in the kitchen at all, for the sun merely strikes the window and sink, leaving the rest of the room in shade.
What glorious bulbs of joy these peaches are! I suppose our harvest this year will be twenty or thirty, more than double that of last year. Like our plums, they're too good to make jam out of. That reminds me; we have a few jars of peach jam made a year or two ago that are worth reaching for soon.
I remember making the jam with a little ginger, and the finished product was special. Although I think making jam can be a pain, now that we have our summer kitchen in gear, it's much easier, and Dino loves getting the jars out, matching the new caps, boiling the water and completing the process with our own labels.
We pick up Ingela, one of Annika and Torbjorn's daughters from the train station at noon and take her back after dropping off a folded mattress at their house. She's finishing her tour guide stint in Italy, and moving back to Sweden to study. We're sure we'll see her again when her parents are here.
Dino watches the trials in the Formula 1 European Grand Prix after pranzo, while Sofi and I read and snooze. I'm tempted to pick up a paint brush, but decide to read instead; Monday I'll work on Felice's face after conferring with Marco.
The weather is strangely overcast, and although the thermometer reads 31C, it seems cooler, almost fall-like when we're outside.
Late in the afternoon we take a stroll to the tomato gardens and pluck off a good bunch, although there are more ready to ripen. This is not a huge crop, but they are beautiful and tasty. In the next day or so we'll process a few more jars.
Dino also picks what he thinks are the last three peaches, and they are beauties. Both the tomatoes and peaches need a little more ripening, except for a few really ripe tomatoes that we'll eat tomorrow, and we'll let that happen on our kitchen windowsill while we gaze at them proudly.
Dino works on the wisteria, whose growth has slowed somewhat. For a first year's growth we are quite happy, and may not cut them back a great deal. We'll ponder that in the winter months. For now, we think they are beautiful, no matter how fast they grow or how many years it takes for them to flower.
Sunny days continue, and we walk up to mass after watching half of the basketball final between the U. S. and Spain. It is exciting, but we don't see the finish.
Instead, we're treated to a Don Giampietro mass, and with my Chinese fan that creaks as I work it, I'm so aware of the noise rebounding off the walls that it lies in repose for most of the service.
"Where have you been?" Lore asks us after the mass, and tells us that they went to Orvieto on Friday evening for the music and food. We have been invited by Frank and Candace to join them in Orvieto tonight for Orvieto's final night of their folk festival, with food served on benches in the Piazza del Popolo in front of the Palazzo del Popolo, which used to serve as the Comune. Sounds like fun.
There are more summer Olympics to watch, ending with the closing ceremonies, which remind me that China has spent billions "with a B" on these games. The choreography is so complex that the scene is dizzying, but although I loved watching the opening ceremonies, these seem to fizzle.
No matter, we think the venues were as good as it gets, and if we keep politics out of the mix, think it was a success.
We're driving to Orvieto with Pietro and a friend from Norway later in the day as a blood-orange sky meets the hills behind the town. Pietro tells us that portends bad weather for tomorrow, but we know differently...
"Red sky at night, sailor's delight; Red sky at morning, sailors take warning..." The Guardea folks who put on their noteworthy sagras have taken on this venue, and we're able to eat their famous gnocchi. At another food stall they are offering a sort of "philly cheesesteak" with out the cheese and a piece of baked polenta. Pietro finds something else to eat, for he thinks polenta reminds him of the gruel he used to eat as a child and does not think much of potatoes formed into pasta. It's hard to imagine not liking creamy polenta, for mine when I make it is full of butter and cheese and takes an hour or more to fix.
Earlier, when stopping at Frank and Candace's, Pietro asks if we are going to the Duomo for cena and is so disappointed that we are not. He believes that the words "Orvieto" and "Duomo" are synonymous; how could anyone travel to Orvieto and not head straight for it?
When we arrive at Piazza del Popolo, we find a table in front of the stage that is in fact, the front of the Palazzo del Popolo. It is beautifully lit.
The second group has me yearning again to play my violin. It is Zuf de Zur , from Friuli Venezia Giulia. The flyer indicates it's from the zone of Gorizia and that it is "mitteleuropea"(middle European) What? Look at your map of Italy and in the top right hand section you'll find Friuli and Venezia (Venice). To the right, just over the border, is a region called Giulia, which sits at the beginning of Croatia.
The music is pure gypsy, but it could be Israeli or Romanian, but probably is Croatian. The vocalist has a low throaty voice, her arms raised above her shoulder as if she's getting ready to dance. But what's this? There is no sound from the violinist. Her mic is dead.
Dino walks over to the soundman, standing nearby with his headphones around his neck. He motions to a man on stage about the mic and is told they are working on it. So the music continues without the violin, the mic is fixed, and she returns to playing her high-pitched notes, the bow sliding back and forth in a frenzy as if it's been rubbed with hot oil.
Is there some way I could learn a few chords and be able to play simple pieces with a group? Oh how I'd love to play again; this time jamming with a guitarist and... It would take Dino to agree to be my trainer, massaging my shoulder and neck daily, but I fear those days of playing the violin have passed. Time to get together with Tiziana, my violin teacher, to see if we could conspire anyway...
Back on planet earth, after stopping for little cups of the artisan gelato at a little shop on the Corso, we walk back down the back of the hill to our cars, agreeing with Frank and Candace to have our next batch of tomato processing on Wednesday and say good night to our dear friends.
There is a dove on the telephone wire; does it's crow-sounding clatter signify it's looking for its mate? We're on the terrace eating our cereal with a peach from our tree and it's a lovely morning.
We begin to speak about preparing my next canvas, and I'm thinking of doing three paintings of the contadini of Mugnano: Felice, Vincenzo and Italo. The two others would be of the same size as the one I'm painting these days of Felice.
In my mind, I see Vincenzo sitting on his little bench next to a pear tree hanging out over the road. When the weather cools a bit, we'll visit Vincenzo and ask if he'll let us take a few photos of him in his garden. In the meantime, there's new linen to pick up and work for Dino...
I work on the Carsulae story and we agree to leave earlier for Dan and Wendy's tomorrow and stop there to take a few photos. But what about a story of the archeologist's perspective of Carsulae? We'll ask Wendy tomorrow.
We're bringing dessert, and there is a recipe for peach clafouti in the latest issue of La Cucina Italiana. I modify it for plums, for we have plenty, and Dino tells us we are about a week away from an ample fig harvest. That means more jam. Va bene.
The clafouti done, it sits on the counter to cool and we have pranzo; then get ready to leave. Dino places the long canvas in the back of the car and we drive to Marco's. I'm somewhat nervous, anticipating his reaction; I have worked completely by myself on this effort. Will he think my work has been good, or not comment at all?
There is no comment, and I think It's strange, but later he tells me he likes the hand holding the basket and the color of the skin, although the remainder of the arm is too red.
But on the face, he counsels me strongly that when transferring a design to a canvas, the lines are so very important that the first time I put paint to the canvas it is critical that those lines are respected and that 80 per cent of the painting is formed by the respect of those lines.
What have I been doing these past weeks? Well, I've respected the lines, but have painted layer upon layer on the canvas, hoping to use light and shadow in complimentary fashion. Obviously, all the lines have been obliterated...He asks me what I want help on today, and I tell him the face. He tells me the basket will take a long time. Oh.
He shows me a technique using ocra rosa and ocra giallo mixed together to form the base, and then add white to the top in strategic points, then sfume (feather) them in. Once that's done, he shows me how to strategically use lines of the dark and lines of the white to make the hollows and dips on the skin's surface, all the while feathering as I proceed.
I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself now, but continue along like a good soldier. By the time Dino picks me up we've agreed that I'll finish painting Felice's white shirt and work on his forehead myself at home before returning in two weeks. I'm sure I'll work more on the artichokes as well.
I'm determined to return for a positive reaction from my mentor, but those compliments are hard to come by. This painting will take at least another month to complete, so let's take our time and enjoy the ride.
We have a conversation about linen for the next canvas, and Marco tells us to find it in Rome. But Dino and I discuss later that there are two shops in Viterbo who sell tessuti (fabric) and they must have good quality linen. There's no need to travel to Rome for it. We'll see.
The canvas is still wet on his face, so I'll get up very early tomorrow and hope to paint for several hours before we leave at 10 A M for pranzo in Umbertide at Dan and Wendy's. Dino puts the painting in the car and we drop it off at home before driving to Orvieto to pick up my ring.
The woman at the little jewelry shop on the Corso is on the phone; that's why Dino has been unable to reach her for hours. No the ring is not ready and yes, it is way overdue, but she calls the man who is resizing it and it is ready. She will have it before her shop opens at 10 A M and we'll stop there to pick it up on the way to Niccone.
No, it's not on the way, but no matter. She tells us she'll call when she has it and I am doubtful; I'm doubtful that it will be ready; I'm doubtful that it will turn out well. Dino shares my feelings, but we have to stay calm until tomorrow. I'm already getting ready in my mind to file a denuncia on her with the Carabinieri, and know where the office is in Orvieto, just in case...
Let's slow down and think about other things...like the convention in Denver and Hillary's supporters wanting some respect. The meat of the convention tonight will happen after 3 A M our time, so I turn in at around ten, thinking that I'll get up in the middle of the night and begin to paint while I watch the shenanigans on T V in Denver. "Why can't we all just get along?"
This morning I get up at around 2:30 A M, and sit downstairs watching the U. S. Democratic Convention until just after 5. There is no verbal head bashing, and in what commentators refer to as a wasted 25% of the Convention, although I admit it is more homey and inclusive.
I am moved by the Ted Kennedy speech, or rather by the lyrics and music played afterward as he embraces his family onstage, "You're still the one. You're still the one. We're still havin' fun and you're still the one." Like him or not, he's a lion, fighting for his life and insisting that he be flown to Denver to speak onstage. Yes, it's a Kennedy moment.
Michelle Obama won me over, or should I say her youngest daughter won me over when she asked her father what city he was in. When he was shown live at someone's house in St. Louis watching the convention, he mistakenly said he was in Kansas City. The little one picked right up on it and saved her father. She's one to watch!
I go to bed for about two hours, then rise to work Felice's face on the painting, which is still wet. I am pretty tired, and somehow get three different colors of paint on my black cotton shirt, so by the time Dino comes downstairs I'm hurriedly trying to wash the paint out.
I change my clothes after putting the paints away, and realize that Felice is looking pretty horrid by this time, his face red and bloated as instructed by Marco yesterday. He is looking older, and perhaps when I return to Marco's in two weeks we'll tone down the reddish cast, adding the stubble on his cheeks. In the meantime, it's back to working on the artichokes after finishing painting his white shirt.
We take the cloufouti out of the refrigerator and put it in a basket with blue ice blocks beneath it to preserve it for a few hours. Perhaps we will even heat it before serving it. Either way, it looks good.
Sofi is in heaven, realizing that she'll be coming with us today, but my mind is on the jeweler, and I'm thinking she'll have another excuse this morning for not having the ring ready. Thankfully, I am proved wrong, and we pick up the ring and then traverse across the countryside to our destination.
With our dear friend, Tiziano, in the back seat with Sofi, we drive to Niccone, near Umbertide
, for pranzo with our friends, Danny and Wendy Hallinan. Their newly built wooden pergola is a perfect addition to their house; on these hot days they can enjoy a meal or just sit outside under the protection of the wooden supports from the hot sun. Today it's not too hot, but hot enough that we enjoy its shade.
Wendy is so very happy to have Tiziano for archeological counsel on this day regarding her dig at Carsulae. The archeologist at the dig was Etruscan, and many of the finds that were of the Roman period were things that were unfamiliar to her.
Since Tiziano is an expert on both, he's able to easily decipher her drawings and give her approximate dates of each shard, turned into a drawing of the entire bowl or plate. He is a wonder, and happy to help. Perhaps next year he'll be hired as the archeologist to work with Wendy. That would be great all around.
We return home by way of Cetona to pick up a case of the marvelous local wine. This is the same wine we fell in love with when we ate in Cetona a few weeks ago with Pietro. Since the wine cost €6 at the restaurant, we're surprised to find it is about €5 a bottle. This would not be the case in the U. S., for restaurants make good money serving bottles of wine and marking it up substantially.
Just after leaving Niccone we stopped at a large fabric shop to purchase pure linen for future canvases. Dino thinks we have enough to do three more the size of Felice's. That would mean canvases of: Vincenzo, Italo and possibly Tito. Tito died a couple of years ago and was Enzo Gasperoni's father.
Of course we need Vincenzo and Italo to agree to let us take a few photos of them. It will take most of the winter to complete them all, and I'd love to have a showing of them all together as the "Contadini di Mugnano in Teverina". With Tiziano's counsel, Tito will be sitting on a tree stump, sharpening a scythe and smiling his sweet toothless smile.
I see Vincenzo sitting underneath the pear tree jutting out over the road at his orto, right as one turns the corner at the base of Via Mameli just after the fountain. But I'm not sure of Italo's scene.
When we arrive back at home, we are greeted by an email from Terence and Angie - photos of the twins, Marissa and Nicole on their first day of school - pre-school, here they are:
I realize that this is a bit harsh of me, but if she would only give her husband the boot and move forward with her own life, perhaps we could have a female president next time after all. Whatever happened to him?
Dino travels to Montecchio for a few errands, and returns with lemons for tonight's risotto. I paint a little, and watch some of the election coverage. Dino picks more tomatoes and they continue to be big and sweet. We prepare the loggia for a batch of processing and Candace and Frank arrive to process a batch of theirs. Pietro's houseguest and Pietro arrive to watch our processing, then return to his house to ready his court for a game with Frank and Dino.
While the tomatoes are in their boiling water bath, we drive down to Pietro's and the four men play a game on his grass court with hand hewn fat sticks of wood. It is such a primitive game, that although the men have fun, I call down to ask which of them is Fred Flintstone. It's probable that this game is that old.
Candace and I sit on the terrace laughing and Candace braids my hair as though we're teenagers sitting on the sidelines watching a baseball game. We drink glasses of prosecco and then return in time to take the jars out of the processing bath.
Pietro and Frude arrive and I fix up a batch of lemon risotto and sliced heirloom tomatoes and buffala mozzarella. Candace serves a chocolate zucchini cake and it is very light and tasty. What a good idea!
The evening ends under a beautiful starry sky and I spend the remainder of the night downstairs on the couch with Sofi watching the convention.
I'm so very tired, but catch a few zzz's and get up to drive to Vetriolo with Dino to take notes and photos of the brick ovens for a story about characteristic mattone (handmade brick) making.
We stop for cappuccinis in Civitella D'Agliano and at the bakery for loaves of our favorite girasole (sunflower) bread, then arrive to meet Marco Andolfi at La Fornace, who is the young manager, and his uncles and father and who all work as a team to make bricks the same way they were made 2000 years ago at Tiziano's kilns in Mugnano. This family has done this work continuously here for the past three hundred years.
We drive on to Viterbo to shop, and on the way decide to stop in at a nearby town, Celleno. By the time we are through we have five new listings and these are reasonably priced, mostly under €100.000, two with good sized outside terraces.
We return home for pranzo and then a dolce fa niente to catch up on some sleep. When I wake up, I do some writing and as I do I look out the window facing South. The sky is a musty lavender and pink, white marshmallow clouds sitting on top and birds flying in formation in the nearer distance. The air is cool and fresh, and the sounds of the trees dancing sound like rustling taffeta.
Will I get up in the middle of the night to watch Obama's speech and the events leading up to it? Probably. We'll see.
I'm as sleep-deprived as if I have been on a twenty-hour flight to San Francisco, but feel strangely energized. I'm not sure that Obama hit it "out of the park" with his speech, but at least I am not particularly depressed about it. I'm feeling good about getting up at 2:30 A M to hear Al Gore and then Barack Obama just the same; I can always sleep.
The Alfa needs work, so I drop it off and Dino meets me in the Panda with Sofi. Back at home, Dino and I watch some of the reruns of last night's convention. I do wish Al Gore had slowed down; his speech was electrifying but delivered too quickly. Now we will see what the repercussions are of the last four days.
After pranzo I'm back painting, this time Felice's shirt. While I paint, we learn that Sarah Palin will be John McCain's running mate, and she's courting disenchanted Hillary supporters. Smart move. I'm certainly disenchanted, but would not vote for a pro-life candidate. I do applaud her, however, and think she'll be great, whatever she chooses to do.
Wind returns and it's a lovely evening.
Dino picks a bowl of figs and they are certainly delicious. Will we make more of the fig jam this year? Perhaps, but not today.
We pick up Pietro and return to Celleno for a concert of ancient music in the Chiesa del Convento in the late afternoon. This is a place worthy of a notebook quip, so we take photos and will do some more research.
But on this day, we're here for the music, as well as a peek at the incredible instruments; one man plays what looks like a wooden pole, and the sound that comes out of it is like a man's voice. Lutes, oboes, violins, cellos...most of them are ancient varieties hundreds of years old, and do not look familiar.
We speak with Sabine, the Director, and I ask her if the program is decided in advance. It is, and for a week, all through the day and evening, these musicians and singers practice and practice some more. We'll look forward to returning next year to hear them again.
One of the people in the audience was a nun with one of the most beautiful faces...perhaps I'll paint her one day.
The road up to the houses is blocked by a mesh banner, but there is a walkway around the corner that is open. We prowl around, dreaming of how much we'd like to restore this place, and are happy to share some of the sights we've seen here.
Tiziano is not here, but Lori tells us after mass that he's on another major archeological walk with Pepe, Paolo and Antonella; this time to Chia. Alberto tells Tiziano "not this time", probably remembering how stressful the last walk was. It's too much of a walk for us, but we'll ask him later how it went.
Yes, we are going to make more of the lemony fig and ginger jam that everyone loves, so Dino picks more from the tree. Tomorrow will be the day. We have cut the tree back markedly, so I thought we'd have very few. Thankfully, the tree is a tough old one, and this year's figs are better than ever.
The mornings and the evenings are decidedly cooler these past few days; it is as if Mother Nature checks her calendar. We'll have fewer and fewer tomatoes in September, but the Green Zebras are taking a really long time to ripen. Perhaps in the next couple of weeks we'll be feasting on them.
Dino agrees to make a note to plant fewer heirlooms, more regular Italian tomatoes to "put up". Perhaps we'll follow Candace's lead and grow smaller tomatoes, ones that can just be popped into the processor.
A new friend is coming for a visit to look for a house, and we'll pick her up at the train station this weekend. We look forward to showing her the towns around, and giving her some helpful information about navigating the various ins and outs of living in Italia.
That reminds me. Today Dino stopped at Gianni's supermarket in Attigliano and ran into Michelle while he was buying lemons. She told him that buying produce by the kilo, rather buying less than a kilo at a time, reduces the price. So Dino plops one more lemon in the bag and winds up paying almost a euro less for the whole lot!
We're watching TV today, wanting to find out what is going to happen with the Republican convention, and with the hurricane expected in the Gulf, the convention changes markedly, with John McCain putting pedal to the metal and changing the emphasis to help the people of Mississippi and Louisiana and Texas instead. Good idea.
Barack Obama stands by with his millions of volunteers to put the Democratic Party behind any rescue and recovery mission as well. It's a moving thing to watch partisan politics take a back seat to the American way of helping our fellow man. Isn't that what America is all about, anyway? That sound you hear is a little pull at my heartstrings and yes, I am proud to be an American.
Tonight we are invited to Pepe Fosci's house, and are joined by: Tiziano, the couple who traveled to the U. S. with Paola and Antonio, Paola and Antonio, Mario and Fulvia, Nonna Candida, Giuseppa, Pepe and Antonella. Antonio is wearing a funny chef's cap, more of a cap than a hat, and makes the pizzas in the family pizza oven.
They are marvelous. We've brought a carrot cake, for I wanted to bring an American dessert in honor of Paola and Antonio's trip, and I had no idea that they love carrot cake!
We sit outside, and the setting is beautiful. The grass is so perfect it does not look real, but Sofi rolls around in it and lets us know it's the real deal. Ubik, Pepe's dog, puts up with her, but they mostly keep to themselves. Or rather Sofi keeps next to me, hoping I'll feed her goodies.
We're so happy to be invited to this cena, for we love this family and so enjoy being with them. The more we get to know them, the more we love them.
PROPERTY OF THE MONTH - NEW FEATURE! Each month in the journal we will feature one of the properties for sale on our web site. This month's property is a small, new house (2004) built in a characteristic manner with very fne workmanship and excellent quality materials as well as many fine features. It has a top quality organic vineyard and an olive grove. It is a perfect property for a couple or a single person. Take a look!
EXPATS DON'T FORGET TO REGISTER TO VOTE Important note to those living outside of the US. Tell your friends how easy it is to register to vote from www.VoteFromAbroad.org . States' deadlines for RECEIPT of registration requests begins October 4. Please use the following US fax number: +1-703-693-5527 (the toll free numbers in many parts of the world do not work). All faxes are received in Virginia by the Federal Voting Assistance Program. The FVAP will log in the date and time that the fax was received and then forward it on to your local election official. For deadline purposes, your form is deemed received when it arrives on the FVAP's fax machine, but you still must MAIL the original form to your local election official. The only States with deadlines in the next two weeks which do NOT accept the fax registrations a re New York and Wyoming.
I pick more tomatoes, and although it is the end of the season, there are plenty left on the plants. We'll probably be able to eat them until late in the month, and that's fine with us.
Dino picks a big glass bowl of figs, and we have enough to make our jam. By the time we're through making the jam and bottling it in our summer kitchen, we have eighteen jars! Although we've had plenty of fresh figs to snack on earlier, these figs are just as tasty, and sometimes even tastier, when put up in jars with ginger and lemon. They'll surely last until next summer.
Aside from the fig project, it's a quiet day, with a little painting and a little gardening and a little reading. I'm hoping to finish more of the painting before returning to Marco's next Monday.
I'm strangely tired today, but with friends arriving for pranzo there are things to fix. Dino has already been shopping in Viterbo and returns with things to prepare.
I fix roast pepperoni in vivid yellow and red colors, sprinkled liberally with salt and olive oil; then cook a boiled dressing for cole slaw. The dressing recipe is one from the old Fanny Farmer cookbook we have, a simpler American version of Artusi's The Art of Eating Well
Dino marinates pork chops and I slice just-picked tomatoes from the garden, also in colors of red and yellow, and add a handful of fresh basil to them once they're sitting on a painted platter from Deruta. One half of a thinly sliced cavolo (cabbage) is mixed with the dressing and chilled.
Dan and Wendy arrive with dessert, a lovely polenta cake that I warm in the oven just before serving with vanilla ice cream and dollops of yesterday's fig jam.
Tiziano arrives with more sweets from the bakery in Bomarzo, including what we called turnovers as children, sweet dough jam-stuffed and folded over before baking in the oven. The next hours are spent speaking about history and language.
Wendy outlines an idea for us to give tours to people who are in love with the idea of living in Italy, whether they are seriously considering it or not. She tells us that the five days they spent with us, traveling all over central Italy to look for properties, were the most fun they've had; now they think we should do this for small groups.
So, dear readers, what do you think of that? Would you entertain a tour of several days duration, in which we picked up no more than six of you in Rome and gave you a slice of life in Italy, including but not limited to: viewing properties, spending an hour or so with muratores and other artisans watching them do their work and asking questions, attending an archeological dig, taking a cooking class or two after shopping at a local outdoor mercato for produce and local specialties, staying in a town or two to be on your own for dinners and get a feel for the town, attending a sagra or local characteristic ceremony and perhaps even joining in a town or village procession for the local saint?
It's just a thought, but if enough of you respond that you'd like to hear more, we'll consider doing at least one. We do hear from a number of you who are curious about what it is like to purchase a property and live a little of the Italian dream. So perhaps an adventure all your own might be like dipping a toe in the water...
Email us if you're interested in hearing more, and if you do, what kind of things would you like to experience? We just might do one next Spring to see...
After our friends leave, we realize we won't see them for at least several months, and muse a little about Wendy's ideas. It might be fun for everyone.
Dino drives off to pick up some prosciutto to eat with a melon, and he winds up at Sgrina in Giove. Their prosciutto is very salty; so salty that he winds up eating my share as well as his. We're wondering if the less expensive packaged brands are just as good, and probably won't rush back to Sgrina unless we want something special, and definitely not for prosciutto.
It's a very quiet evening, with the crickets and a floor fan making the only noise.
Yesterday at pranzo, Tiziano surprised us by showing us how Italians make real espresso. He supervises Dino by telling him to take the first few drops that are pushed through the coffee grounds and mix them with two spoonfuls of sugar for each serving. Stir the mixture with a spoon vigorously until it becomes a paste. Then add a generous dollop of the sugar/coffee paste into the bottom of each cup, pour the coffee and, voila, you have "caffé, crema"! So Dino asked Tiziano - "What is the difference between this creation and a simple espresso with sugar in it?" Tiziano replied, "no difference, it is simply aesthetics." ????
This morning, we drive toward Amelia, stopping to drink "due capucci" at the bar just outside town. Afterward we park next to Chiesa Santa Lucia, a Romanesque church, and walk up to a bed and breakfast, B&B 44, to introduce ourselves and look it over for someone to stay at this weekend while looking at properties with us.
The place is lovely and quiet, and we'll certainly recommend it. This weekend, our new friend will "road test" it by staying in one of the rooms overnight and will let us know what she thinks.
Unfortunately, Amelia in its own way is as busy as Rome, with so much traffic and so much going on for a town its size that we're stressed just by a visit to the local Coop market.
Of course we run into expat friends, for Amelia is an expat haven, but people who don't want to mix with expats also have plenty to like in Amelia; it is a pre-Roman town with much history and art to explore.
Tomorrow we'll preview three new properties, and if they pass muster will include them in this weekend's property tour. It's strange to us, but in Italy one must make an appointment to view a property; in the U S, any time someone wants to view a property it is made available almost immediately.
I suppose it's a part of the Italian lifestyle, but we do our best to make any property pictured on our website available almost immediately. When we meet with sellers before signing them up, we try to emphasize that we're different than realtors and when we do work with realtors, ask them to partner with us to make the experience a pleasant one for both sides.
This afternoon is quiet, but the temperature remains hot. Having picked more tomatoes this morning, perhaps we will put more up tomorrow. We can only eat so many at a time, but in winter we will dream about these days; recalling them as if we're gliding in slow motion, the complex tart-sweet taste of our sliced heirloom tomatoes just picked from the vine on our tongues. They'll be partnered with ample drops of Diego's marvelous olive oil as if they are elixirs from the gods, sliding down our throats in perfect harmony.
Here's what the current pickings look like:
'Gomorra' waste boss assets seized
Businessman 'opened dumps' to clan denounced by Saviano
(ANSA) - Naples, September 2 - Italian police on Tuesday seized millions of euros in assets from the owner of a waste disposal company believed to have let the Neapolitan mafia or Camorra use his dump sites.
Cipriano Chianese is suspected of links to the powerful Camorra clan exposed in Italian journalist Roberto Saviano's worldwide bestseller Gomorra (Gomorrah).
Among the 80 million euros of assets seized were apartments in Rome and Caserta near Naples, a hotel complex at the seaside town of Formia, and cash, shares and other real estate. Chianese, who is also a lawyer, has been put under police surveillance for three years.
In July police closed down a swathe of illegal dump sites run by the Casalesi clan.
Anti-mafia police have recently made major steps in dismantling the clan, which has achieved worldwide notoriety thanks to Saviano's book, this year also a Cannes-winning film.
The Casalesi clan, which takes its name from the town of Casal di Principe near Naples, is one of the most powerful families in the Neapolitan mafia.
Gomorra, a play on Camorra, details its deadly hold over rackets and businesses ranging from drugs to toxic waste disposal, construction and even the garment industry.
Saviano describes the clan as ''a confederation bringing together all the Camorra families in Caserta province (which is) made up of violent company bosses, killer managers, builders and landowners, each with his own armed gang, all tied to economic interests in most sectors''.
Saviano's investigation revealed clan links to central and northern Italy as well as eastern Europe.
Yes, the mafia continues to thrive in Italy, despite efforts to the contrary. We see no evidence of it here, but that does not mean it does not exist all around us. We choose to ignore it, feeling it as a swarm of insects looming overhead, mentally covering us as if they're sucking the air right out of us, while we wait for its presence to move on by...
The days seem to fall into one another, so writing a little each day helps keep my mind sane. Day by day I notice a kind of unreal sense of the world around me. Just this morning, I dropped my sunglasses under the car when picking up Sofi to step inside.
We had just come from the B & B in Amelia, and I found myself overwhelmed with anxiety. I did not remember taking them off but remember wearing them for part of the time in the house. I had no idea where they were.
Dino asked me to step back and looked first under the car, where he found them. He's great at recovering lost items. My anxiety continued for a while, and when I apologized for becoming so agitated, Dino did not seem to notice.
Back at home, we spend the rest of the day quietly. We're enjoying the morning and evening hours enormously, with Dino up early almost each day to putter somewhere on the property and taking an afternoon nap, like the rest of our neighbors and most of Italy.
I paint a coat on the basket of Felice's painting, but am not happy with the way his face is turning out, so although his shirt is mostly finished, I want to wait until Monday to take a good hard look at it with Marco, and hopefully make it more realistic. In the meantime, we'll visit Felice and Marsiglia to take another photo of him, perhaps on Monday morning.
Dino wants to have a fire on the edge of our far property to burn off lots of cuttings. I'm still in bed when he begins the fire, and he tells me everything is all right, dousing water on it after we eat breakfast.
We drive off to appointments to view houses, and are back around noon, agreeing to show one this weekend and turn down two others. But Carlo and Nando are waiting at our gate, and there is a fire burning...
Dino rushes up to see what he can do and Gianfranco is on the far property with a hose, but doesn't know how to turn on the water. He saw smoke from his house above us, and climbed down the ancient road behind our property to see if he could help in our absence.
Dino moves another hose and douses the scorched earth. It appears our olive trees and apple tree are safe, but when the Vigili di Fuoco arrive, they show him a potential hot spot on the trunk of an old cut down tree and Dino agrees to keep his eye on it.
Berlusconi's conservative government has slashed Italy's arts budgets for the next three years. That includes historical and archaeological sites that you may want to visit. Purtroppo!
The cuts have affected hundreds of museums and archaeological sites that depend on state money, as well as opera houses, theaters, filmmakers, libraries, archives and conservators of monuments and artworks; they also threaten the lush countryside, which the Culture Ministry is expected to protect.
Things are bad all around, although we take heart at the drop of the euro against the dollar. At one point this summer it rose as high as 1.58 to the dollar, it is now back to 1.45 and hopefully will continue its downward trend. It appears Europe is now in an economic slump as well.
Before the sun sets, I walk out to the tomato ortos and pick more than a dozen in a variety of shapes and colors, with possibly as many as thirty or more hoping to ripen before we pull the plants out. Perhaps this year we'll plant fave (fava beans) early this fall and give them the entire winter to nourish the soil.
We drive to Rome for dental appointments, and to meet with GB from Italian Notebook. But first there is a little time over breakfast to watch last night's news from the Republican National Convention. I'd wanted to see Cindy McCain to give her the benefit of the doubt, but there was nothing of her; instead I watched John McCain slide into the old Republican orthodoxy. This has me wondering: which John McCain is this?
Although The NYT is usually anti-Republican, at least one of their writers echoes my thoughts. If John McCain wanted a more respectful contest, why did he spend so much time dumping on his opponent?
I'm still not sure I understand which side is guilty of ethnic cleansing in Georgia, so will you please write and tell me what you think? I don't want to dismiss Russian thinking right off the bat, especially with George Bush wanting to give $1 billion to Georgia.
With the world in a tumble, Italians blithely move along "Sempre avanti!" (always forward), but with a strange twist, especially since the former Mayor of Rome, Rutelli's wife, used to own the company responsible for all parking control and the collecting of tickets in Rome.
With his nemesis, Berlusconi, back in power, all parking is free in Rome until September 15th, when someone deep in Berlusconi's pocket will take over and change the system to make it more to His liking.
"She's made millions for years...now it's our turn!" I hear from someone in Rome this morning. It appears Italians love Berlusconi BECAUSE he is a crook. He is an entrepreneurial crook, and a clever one at that. Italians love and respect people who are clever "intelligente" or "bravo" is the translation, but the real English description is "crafty" or "sly" or "skillful" and yes, "intelligent" at the same time. Italians think these two words are two of the same.
I hear Lore speak about people who are "clever" and now I understand that she does not mean clever the way I do. This speaks volumes about the Italian way of thinking, does it not?
We reach the area near the Piazza del Popolo, where our dentist is located, and drive around a couple of times before finding a parking space. Dino looks for a parking machine but returns to tell me it is broken. He cannot put money into it.
So he asks a man where the next machine is located and is told parking is free today. No wonder no one has those little parking chits inside their windshields. This is proof that Berlusconi's "gift" of free parking for a few weeks will soon take a "right" turn.
Speaking of politics, we pass by a sign graffittied onto a garage door, that exemplifies the Italian sense of humor. Cocomero is the Italian word for watermelon. What do you think?
We have a meeting with GB of Italian Notebook fame over three shakeratos (shakerati?) at Caffé San Cosimato and of course I'll write that story up tonight. Have I pummeled you enough with looking up www.italiannotebook.com ? If you take the time to read my journal, you certainly have time to give the notebook a chance.
We talk together about GB's ideas for the notebook, and agree to partner on a project together. But first we need to get the subscriber base higher. So if you have any ideas on how to do that, we're all ears...Forwarding notes to your friends to give it a look would help loads. And no, he agrees to never sell his email list. That's important.
We have quick plates of pasta at Il Torre around the corner and return to the bar to document the making of an exceptional shakerato. Now there are plenty of ways to make a regular shakerato, but this one is really special. Look for my quip in Italian Notebook about how to make one soon...
We're back at home by 5 PM and the afternoon is very hot, but windy. After writing the shakerato story for GB and sending it off, we drive down for a visit with our dear friend, Pietro. On the way we drive by lots of Mugnanese, who silently look at us and stare. Dino has given them plenty to talk about; we wave as we drive by, anyway. Vergogna! (shame) is what they are probably thinking of us.
We wake and look out the window to see our far property looking like...toast! Well, at least we won't have to bring Mario by to weed-whack any time soon...
With all the Feminist bashing these days, we've wondered what has happened to Gloria Steinem. She appears this morning from the The Los Angeles Times . Now her message does not sound all that radical.
We pick up our friend Catherine and by the time we drop her off back at the B & B in Amelia, we have taken her to Amelia, Capitone, Celleno, across the countryside and back to Amelia.
Tomorrow we'll show her Guardea and Tenaglie before taking her to the train station. It's been a full and fun day, with Sofia making a new friend and all of us learning quite a bit about each other and the properties themselves.
For most of the day a strange scirocco air hangs around us like a blanket, the humidity and high temperature making it difficult to move easily. Catherine is a delight, not complaining a bit and interested in all of it.
There is plenty for her to think about. Tomorrow Guardea has its weekly market, so between the church services and the mercato, if the property is not too noisy then, it will never be too noisy.
Earlier in the day, I noticed Virginia Creeper growing along a wall and recalled how much I dislike it. I'm not sure why, perhaps it's the reddish color it takes on as fall takes wing. But I noticed another thing; the leaves are already beginning to crinkle up and drop off, perhaps from the intense heat. It could be the approach of fall and the reminder of a cold winter that puts me off. Regardless, a change in the air is ahead.
I'm always saddened by the approach of fall. I loved fall as a young girl, loved the leaves; loved the football games and the smell of freshly cut grass. I hesitate to use the word "grass" these days, with the charred remains of our far property.
I'm wondering if we're disappointing the neighbors by not attending mass this morning. I'm ready for their silent nods; their disdainful thoughts about the fire Dino unknowingly set. They'll have to wait a week.
We're up early, and arrive in Amelia to pick up Catherine by eight o'clock. There's plenty of time to reach Guardea for our appointment, where friends will also meet us to look at the property we are showing to Catherine.
We're all ready before the owners appear, and a woman steps out of her apartment next door to ask if we're looking at the property. She's lonely and would love to have a new neighbor.
We finish showing the house and say goodbye to the owners, then walk out the front door. We are met by two women, who greet us while sitting on the little benches in front of the house.
"Gemelli?" I ask. "No; cugini." We like this town very much, and if the noise from the street does not bother Catherine, this would be a great property for them to settle in to. Her husband could even have a little framing shop in the current garage space.
When Dino mentions the possible street noise to her, she retorts, "Put in double-pane glass!" She is clearly enjoying herself and the friendly atmosphere of the people in Guardea.
There is so much for her to think about, and we drive her to the train station and send her off with photos and reminders of the five properties she's seen and a day full of adventures.
We're very tired, and drive on to Il Pallone to shop for groceries and a roast chicken before returning home. Dino has his Formula 1 race to watch and I'll probably have a "dolce fa niente" (nap) this afternoon. The weather is hot and humid, so closing myself in the bedroom with a floor fan and windows and shutters closed sounds like a good idea.
I look for information about the fall election campaign, and don't know why I do. For none of the news is particularly good. Why in heaven did the Democrats throw out all those American flags? I'd like to say I'm excited about what Democrats can do for the country but watch them fall flat on their faces day after day.
That does not mean that I'd vote for a Republican. I will be a single-issue voter this time. As I've said before, it's all about respect; respect for a person to make a choice for what happens to their body, although I am not pro abortion at all. I'm not excited about any of the candidates but am intrigued by the campaign.
This week we'll do some due-diligence about the properties Catherine feels best about, and let the idea of them sink in while we do. Buying property here is an exciting prospect for her, and for her husband, whom we look forward to meeting. I could not imagine a more wonderful woman to have as a new friend. And as for Sofi, she took to Catherine immediately.
I asked Dino last night if he'd drive with me to Marsiglia and Felice's this morning to take a photo or two of Felice as another reference for the painting I'm doing of him. This afternoon I'll return to Marco's bottega, and the new photos will help.
We drive to Bomarzo for a visit with them, taking some flowering mint and a few heirloom tomatoes of different colors. Was it that long ago that Felice showed us how to set up the bamboo stakes and secure the little plants into the earth?
The day our first tomato ripened we stood by as he bent down and caressed the little red orb and gently snapped it from its umbilical cord...looking at it as if it were a diamond.
Today he sits in the kitchen by the wall, with a leg up on the brick hearth in front of the little fireplace; as we embrace, he has no idea who I am. He's happy to see us, just the same. In a few minutes their son, Renzo, arrives and looks at him with such joy that I stand back wide-eyed at the scene.
On this day Felice is doing well, and can tell us the year he was born, remembers their recent 60th wedding anniversary party at Renzo's, and also can tell us when Mugnano neighbor Vincenzo (1920) was born and what kind of work he did.
So we learn an important lesson today; when Felice is doing well, we should be happy and embrace those little moments with joy. When he is not doing very well, we should recall those better days. It does not help to mourn the fragile state of his mind.
I wish I had a photo of Marsiglia standing next to Renzo today, their profiles so similar, as they look joyously past me at Felice. So I will keep the memory tucked away, and when painting his face or in sadder times will recall this day and this imaginary photo.
We subscribe to the NYT online, and although I think we are Democrats, the newspaper is so biased against the Republican party that I'm put off by their lack of fair reporting. There's no need to think for us; we're not that dumb.
So although we are without unbalance news about the election, we are halfhearted about it, anyway. We often feel a million miles away from the happenings in the U S. Today, my thoughts are all about Felice, and about his painting, as I get ready to spend the afternoon at Marco's bottega.
I work on his face again, and bring the colors down, but just can't seem to paint his eyes correctly. I'm sure his lack of good sight and the cloudiness of his eyes has something to do with this, and Marco tells me he has no idea what to do, for he does not know Felice.
I'm on my own with this, so once the paint dries, will try a filmy layer on top of the colors I have painted. Marco reminds me that the method of what I am doing is correct; the personalization of it is what is so tricky.
Since I won't return for two weeks, I'm going to spend a lot of it working on the basket, and he gives me an idea of how to tackle it. It will take longer to paint the cestino (basket) than the time it would take to make it, but I'll certainly enjoy the effort. Will Marco praise my efforts? Probably not. That is not his way. Fa niente.
Sofi helps me to search out more tomatoes, and with a big rattan basket we pick out more than twenty. Dino prepares the boiling water baths and the jars, and we separate the green zebra tomatoes from the rest and process them first. We've agreed that processing heirlooms does not make a great deal of sense, and that we'll grow more bottling tomatoes next year. The varied colored heirlooms do look wonderful in the bottles, however...
There are plenty remaining tomatoes on the vine, but the basil has grown up so much that it almost blocks our path. I ask Dino to cut them down and to cut away around the tomatoes to give the remaining ones the most opportunity to ripen as the sun lowers on the horizon and the cooler days arrive. I'll make the basil cubes for the freezer tomorrow; they are wonderful used in the wintertime in soups and pasta sauces.
But when will I have time to paint? Perhaps this afternoon...
The gate bell rings, and it is Annika, here alone from Sweden for two days, to be followed by Torbjorn on Thursday. Her always sunny face lights up the sky; a wave of emotion arrives as she comes up the steps; it's so good to see her.
We sit under the pergola for espresso and catch up, hoping to see them again at least a couple of times before they return to Sweden for the winter.
When I return to the computer to write a little I listen to a mournful violin and it is the smallest things that remind me of an embracing fall and winter ahead; sitting inside listening to music, a fire in the fireplace, times spent inside with friends.
But there will be months ahead of good weather, and for that I am thankful. It is a different hat that I get ready to don, one for walks in the woods and on the tufa plains, trips to some of the places too hot to explore in the summertime...and that includes Rome, a city we both love.
I recall that Michelle, my dear friend from San Francisco, gave us a recipe for preserving basil, and see that we have a recipe on the Dispensa section of this site under Food that is a different one.
I recall that she gave us a similar recipe that we used to put the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze; once they were frozen we put them into Ziploc bags and returned them to the freezer. During the winter and spring, we'd open a Ziploc bag and take out a few to put into a soup or pasta sauce. I think we'll try to process the basil this way...
So here's Michelle's version, in her own words, and the results are worth trying:
"I put the basil in the Cuisinart and chopped it very small. Added tablespoon of lemon juice (in place of olive oil and as I mentioned garlic, nuts (pine or walnut) and grated parm to form frozen pesto cubes. In your case, I would blend the leaves with fresh lemon diluted with water - just to form a slightly liquid paste. The consistence should be wet enough to freeze into cube in ice cube trays."
That's it, and we'll use her recipe tomorrow. Thanks, Michelle!
Tonight we are invited to Pietro's to meet his newest houseguests, a single woman and a couple with a baby, none of whom know each other. (Well, of course the couple and the baby know each other.) We roll our eyes just to think of the work of taking care of all these people in his little house. The flurry of guests continues next week with Helga, who will be here for a month. Things thankfully remain quiet at our house.
The last time Candace and Frank and Pietro and Dino and I were together, Candace braided my hair as the "boys" played Kubb, an outdoor old Viking game , on Pietro's grassy court. I think Kubb is Pietro's answer to Dino's fixation with bocce...
Anyway, Candace told me that she braids her hair without looking, so today I stand in the kitchen, without a mirror, and braid my own. It is not perfect, but feels great. So look for me with my hair in one braid at the back of my head the next time you see me. It's pretty exciting, for I never, I mean NEVER, had my hair in a braid in all my 62 years. It was always too curly.
The clear weather continues, and Dino takes out all the basil plants in the tomato orto, so that we can wash the leaves and make a lemony solution to put in ice cube trays in the freezer. Once they're frozen, we'll put them in Ziploc bags and return them to the freezer, for use all winter in soups and sauces.
Aside from making the basil last all winter, it makes it possible for the remaining tomatoes to get more sun. After pulling out the basil, he checks the plants and cuts out leaves where he can. We should have tomatoes for another couple of weeks.
It's now my turn to take the leaves off the basil plants, at least the newer more fragrant ones, and put them in the sink to wash. The leaves dry outside a little on a cloth, and I make several attempts to chop them up in the food processor. They just won't cooperate.
So I take out our best chopping knife and chop them very finely, add lemon juice and minced garlic and put them in ice cube trays. We add a little water to each cube to bring it to the top and then put them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, we'll put them in Ziploc bags.
In characteristic fashion, I take three of the trays out too soon, and after they're put in the large Ziploc realize they'll freeze as a block. What I've done is not a problem. After the rest of the basil is frozen correctly, we can defrost the few that became mush and refill them. It will all work out.
Let's talk about Ziploc bags. There are none, I mean none, here in Italy. A Ziploc concessionaire here could make a bundle. The first year we owned our house there were Ziploc bags in the stores, but after a year they disappeared. So Ziploc bags are what we bring back and ask friends to bring. Now that we can only bring back one suitcase each on our Thanksgiving trip to the U S, we'll probably forego the Ziplocs, thinking of them as a happy memory. What? We have a meeting in the afternoon with the women from Bassano, and since they're moving to Austria, we make provisions to show the house to interested buyers while they're gone. While standing at the kitchen door I tell them that their black figs look gorgeous and that we've just processed a batch.
"Take them all!" they tell us, lending us a plastic lug and helping us to cut quite a few. We'll return with at least one big jar of figs with lemon and ginger for them, and will have plenty here to pass around.
Their house and garden and olive trees and vines are our property of the month. Click on it and you will be able to read a detailed description in English of the various features of the house and grounds. Someone through an agency we suggested arrives without calling us first, and they are a little embarrassed that they did not call us first, as they are told to, because we are sitting right there at the kitchen table. No wonder people don't trust realtors in Italy!
Back at home we process the figs; they take longer than we'd like, but by 10 P M we're done with the work and happy to have no more figs to process. These once-a-year projects are fine, but tiring. We keep them up, because we know everything will taste wonderful later.
Earlier today, we drove to a lumberyard to priced wood to make the next pergola where the lavender garden has stood for almost ten years. Dino thinks he can build it almost by himself, and it won't cost much to build. Then we'll buy four wisteria to plant at the corners and sit back and wait. I'm hoping to be able to paint there during good weather, and since we hardly ever use that part of the garden, perhaps it will encourage us to do so.
The weather is decidedly different; today it's overcast with a little chill in the air. With hurricanes sweeping over much of the U S, we're about to get some of the rainy weather on Sunday.
Today I'm determined to paint, and Dino is probably determined to move forward on the new pergola project, thinking at first he could hoist the wood on top of Pandina. I ask him how long the car is, and he tells me 3 meters.
The wood is 4 meters long, so I imagine photographing the little car and then turning the photo on its side for the journal. He agrees to get a quote for delivering the wood, and perhaps we'll do that instead. It's all quite an adventure, but then by now you know that's what we're all about...
Pietro and his stream of house-guests will arrive late in the afternoon for a visit, so I'm thinking about making bruschetta with our heirloom tomatoes. Marie Sygne from Amelia is also expected to visit, so perhaps we'll turn it into a festa. I can always stir up a batch of risotto at the last minute.
No need to make the risotto, for all the guests arrive and we nibble at the bruschetta, but everyone is gone before dark. It's Pietro's night to cook, so they return to his house for grilled trout. He is always so much fun, and these guests are also delightful. Although he enjoys them, he's looking forward to Sunday, when he'll be alone, at least for a day.
We watch some of the memorial coverage on TV for September 11, 2001, and then a quip about Obama's meeting with Bill Clinton. I roll my eyes as I write this, but it's obvious Obama is not on message, and he's floundering. This will be one of those election contests without a good winner.
I think that Barack does not take advice well, and the advice that he is getting is dismal. The country strangely wants Sarah Palin for president, and if the campaign continues at its present pace, they just might get their wish; not now, but sometime during the next four years. That is, if we're around to witness it. A possible McCain presidency is a frightening thing. Better build a bomb shelter...
This afternoon we take Pietro and his remaining houseguest to Tenaglie to take a look at our clients' property. His guest is looking for a place to rent for six months, and might like one or both of the apartments.
Under an overcast sky, our laundry winds up drying in the loggia, for scattered drops appear and we don't know if that means rain. Sun reappears just after pranzo, but by then the sheets are dry.
I return to painting the cestino (basket) sitting on Felice's shoulder, and expect it to take at least two weeks, if not more. It's a time-intensive project, but painting each curve of the raffia allows me time to meditate.
Dino, the project manager guru, wants to move forward on the pergola project in the center garden. Yesterday he visited two wood suppliers for prices, and this morning we realize his friend, Nando, has the best price. Dino is taking Pandina there, to see if he can pick the four uprights up and bring them back on top of the little Panda.
They'll be ready this afternoon or Monday, and if he brings them home he'll pick them up at 1 P M, known as the "ora di pranzo", when Carbinieri are at home eating pranzo. This is the time most things are picked up when the transporters don't want to be stopped on the road. What a funny country!
With fall on the way, we take a look at the remaining tomatoes on the vines. There are a lot of them, and perhaps we won't see them ripening. I wonder, is there is something we can do with unripe tomatoes?
Here's what I find on the internet, in addition to a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes. Since one is supposed to cook them when they're hard, we'll surely try them, especially since polenta season is arriving and we'll be able to find plenty of polenta (corn meal) in the stores. If we come up with a great recipe, we'll post it on the site.
Here's some internet advice for ripening tomatoes at the end of the season:
Tomatoes do not need light to ripen, amazingly, but don't place them on a windowsill. Pick just the healthy green ones and none with any spots or blemishes. Put them in a large brown paper grocery bag on its side in a single layer. Tomatoes placed in layers are more likely to be damaged. Place a few bananas in the bag and just wait to see when they ripen. There is a gas that is given off from the bananas that causes the tomatoes to ripen.
When placing the fruit in the bags, try to separate them based on ripeness, that is, put all fruit of a similar ripeness in the same bag). Check the bags regularly and remove fruit as it ripens. When the bananas are really ripe, why not make banana bread!
Since we have plenty of tomatoes and garlic and olive oil left from last night's bruschetta, we're having a kind of fresh pasta sauce, using what's left and mixing it with freshly grated cheese for today's pranzo.
The weather is steamy and strange, but now we have fried green tomatoes to look forward to, as well as more heirlooms to ripen as September turns into October. God bless Al Gore, the "inventor of the internet!" Yes, that's a "piccolo scherzo" (little joke).
I read that in the U. S., bread will soon come packaged in waxed paper made with cinnamon, for cinnamon inhibits the growth of mold. Does that mean that if I make bread with cinnamon as an ingredient that it will last longer? I suppose it's all relative... If the bread tastes great, it won't last for more than a day anyway. The rule is, make great bread and you won't have to worry about how long it stays around. Making bread is a favorite fall and winter activity for us, so we'll try to make some soon.
We drive to Tenaglie with Pietro and a friend. Her friend from Norway is looking for a place to rent for five months. Depending on how much room she needs, she can rent either of our clients' houses. She loves them both, so we've provided her with the information and perhaps we'll have a long term rental for our friends.
After leaving Tenaglie we drive to Celleno to find the baker who makes artisan bread and delivers it all over Rome. No one on the main road, including the barista, thinks there is a panificio (bread bakery) in the area. But we drive down a dirt road that seems to match the directions we've been given and drive right into an old podere (farm), with chickens flying and a lovely little man without most of his teeth, who smiles and tells us to continue down the road.
Is this a road? The rocks in the path of the car are huge, and as Dino traverses down the incline, we come upon a locked gate with a woman sitting in a car just in front of it. It appears she is the baker and has just closed up for the day. Dino gets out of the car and romances her into selling us two loaves of bread; they are white and the last she has.
We consider this great providence and Dino forks out €7 for the two loaves and climbs back into the car. With a wave to the farmer and his even smaller wife, bent over as if she's right out of an Italian movie, we back up, turn around, and drive home by way of Grotte Santo Stefano and then Sipicciano, where Pietro buys ice cream from Walter's in a tub. They will have quite a feast tonight!
Or so we think. Just after 8 P M the skies open and wind whips across the Mugnano valley. Lightening strikes forcefully every few seconds, and Dino takes out our big flashlight.
Clouds are expected tonight, with thunderstorms tomorrow, but the storms have arrived early and with brut force. We're hoping Pietro and his friend are doing all right, and we suspect that they are. He loves candle light, so has plenty of candles and we're sure will consider this to be another adventure.
Yesterday, Italian Notebook published my latest quip about making Caffé Shakerato. GB, the publisher, reminded us that he did not know that IBM had gone into the coffee machine business. The brand name of the machine?.. Ibiemme...IBM...In these uncertain times, is it possible that even the most known brands are diversifying? Perhaps there's a chip inside that makes some of the process automatic? Purtroppo!
GB loves to edit submissions. I cringe when he uses incorrect grammar, especially when a piece is published under my name. But he's a great guy, and I think Italian Notebook has a real future. So I just roll my eyes and don't take it too seriously.
It's so overcast this morning that we cannot find out on the internet what the weather conditions will be for our drive. Right now in Mugnano, the condition is "pea soup".
In pouring rain, we pick up Duccio and Giovanna just before ten, driving to Todi for pranzo with Sofi nestled between them in the back seat. When I turn around to look at her, she gives me "the look". That means, "I love you but now I have to guard these folks." She's really serious about her job.
We stop at the Bramante church just below Todi, for we will do a story on the organs made in Foligno. One has been installed in this church. In a week or so, we'll drive to Foligno to interview the architect of these organs. So today we take a few photos. I'll probably also write a story about the church. It's really lovely.
Giuliano takes us into town. (Of course Dino has found a perfect parking space, although cars are lined up and double-parked.) We make reservations at the best spot in town, a Ruth Reichel recommended restaurant, Risorante Umbria.
I'm thinking expensive and probably not worth it, but then I'm really surprised to taste the finest pasta dish I've ever eaten...a light as air pappardelle with a sauce of zucca(squash) and zenzero (ginger). I can't wait to get home and try it, but then the pappardelle noodles must be the best quality.
Everyone else enjoys their pranzo, and we drink a San Giovese Bartolomeo from Todi, a wine which they call their local wine and is quite excellent. We'll try to find out more about it.
We have figs for dessert cut with an X to open them like a flower, then a dollop of whipped cream (which we can do without) and a ring of dark chocolate around the rim. Pretty tasty, I admit, even ignoring the cream.
When we leave the restaurant to return to the theatre where Giuliano will play tonight as pianista (why isn't he pianisto?) we take a short cut around the Duomo and Dino takes a few photos. Giuliano is a fine young man and an even finer musician. We remember enjoying hearing him play a few years ago, also in Todi, and today his fingers dance over the keys in a riff while we stand back and watch, Giovanna beaming with pride.
We're back at home for an hour or so and then return to Bomarzo for church service, again with our friends Duccio and Giovanna. Tomorrow morning we're driving to Tuscania for the Cinque Cento rally. With the giro beginning at eleven A M, we'll have to be there before to take just a hundred or more shots of Dino's beloved autos.
On the way up to church tonight, we pass a blue iridescent Cinque Cento. Here I am posing with it. You must admit it's a cute car...
I must remember to write a few Italian Notebook stories after today's trip. There is always something to write about...
Pope Benedict XVI is at it again. This time in Paris, the City of Light, he condemned unbridled "pagan" passion for power, possessions and money as a modern-day plague at an outdoor mass for the faithful.
While garbed in his possibly million euro costume, "Benedict was making his first visit as pontiff to the French capital, renowned for its luxury goods, fashion sense and cultural riches." I think this came from the NYT. So why did he not wear sackcloth, I muse?
Again and again, he hits people over the head that do not bow to him like sheep and embrace his impossible to adhere to dictates. Where is the love, the arms-around thoughts of inspiring faith, resulting in inclusion instead of rejection?
On that note, we slide under the covers, hoping we'll have happier dreams.
We're off to Tarquinia, land of the Etruscans, for the Cinque Cento rally of the year, or at least we think that's what it is.
Driving on the SS1 (the Aurelia), we follow four and then six cinque-centos of various vintages. Each one is a little gem, and each is characterized by it's own special paint color.
Before we're through, Dino has photographed more than one hundred of them, so the space to your left of this column should be filling up with them by now...
A song plays again and again while we're standing around, extolling the virtues of this tiny car, telling us that it "drives like the wind". Do you mean a venticello (little breeze)?
Sofi is an angel. She sits calmly on the sidewalk next to me, while Dino passes to and fro, clicking away with his camera. The little cars are lined up fifteen deep and about ten across in the little square. Because they are so small, they collectively still don't take up much room of Piazza Matteotti, and there are plenty to photograph.
This afternoon is the annual procession of all the confraternities of Viterbo, from Viterbo itself to the Duomo in La Quercia. Like the Macchina di Santa Rosa, watching this once in a lifetime is enough. I don't look forward to standing by myself outside for three hours while the various confraternities walk up to the big church with the original Della Robbias above its main doors, so stay at home with Sofi.
We're home for pranzo and then Dino watches the latest Formula 1 race before he leaves for the bus to take him to the start of the procession with the other members of the Mugnano Confraternity. It's over just after 6 P M, which isn't bad and there are six men from Mugnano and about the same from Bomarzo, including Felice's son, Renzo.
On the bus to the event, Alberto Cozzi tells Dino that we in little Mugnano can now obtain hard-wired ADSL. He has had his for two weeks and loves it. With our annual contract up at the end of this month, Dino thinks it's time to change, and that the annual cost will be less. Good! So the naysayers who said we'd never get the hard wired connection will have to take another look.
Dino said that it rained for part of the procession, but that when they arrived in La Quercia the weather was clear but steamy. We're really glad we did not go.
The evening ends with a cloudy sky, but a forecast of sun ahead. If it does not warm up tomorrow, we'll pick the rest of the tomatoes and put them in brown paper bags with bananas to ripen. Earlier I noticed that there are a lot left on the vine.
Felice's face is puzzling me, but I'll spend this week on the cestino (basket) and next Monday will try to get enough of Marco's attention to work on his face again. I'm planning on working on it for another month or so until I'm satisfied with the painting.
I look directly at it a lot less these days, and realize it's been a real challenge. I must find a way to imbue his face with gentleness and with a twinkle. I'm sure I'll find a way...
This morning, while Dino drives off for meetings, I work on painting the basket, using lighter colors than Marco suggested last week, and the basket now looks more luminous. I'll continue working on it this week, and we'll see what happens when I return to the bottega next Monday.
We will meet new friends tomorrow and show them properties for the next two days. We're also are excited about a couple of new prospective properties that we think will pleasantly surprise them. The weather should be mild and at least partly sunny.
I make the pasta with zucca(squash) and zenzero(ginger) and will be ready to serve it next time with more creamy zucca and more zenzero. After a little fiddling I think I have the recipe worked out for the marvelous pasta I ate on Saturday in Todi.
Clouds streak across a Renaissance blue sky, and I'm thinking of leaving the tomatoes alone in the garden for a couple of days, expecting them to ripen by themselves. With sun overhead, perhaps they'll continue to ripen.
But in the next week or so we'll pull them all out and eat plenty of "fried green tomatoes" in a batter of polenta. We're having trouble finding brown paper bags, and want them to use to ripen the green tomatoes. Dino picked up some bananas to help the process. We'll see if we have ripened tomatoes in a few weeks or just fruit flies...
Now that I've said that, I decide to pull up all the ripe tomatoes and put them in the loggia. We'll process them all tonight and perhaps that's the last batch, purtroppo.
Surprisingly, rain begins, a gentle rain that just won't stop. It winds up raining all night. While the rain is going on our client calls and has defined her requirements more, so we only have one property to sell her, but it is a beauty. We'll show it to her Wednesday morning.
We process three good-sized jars and then forget to take them out of the boiling water bath. So they stay in there for two hours. Dino remembers before all the water burns out of the big pot, and now we're three jars further along.
In an appointment with Giusi this am, we hear that her priest is ill, something to do with an inner ear and balance problem. So I wonder if he's retiring, and if this might be a good place for Don Francis for the next year or two. He's looking around for parishes in Italy, and it would be fun to have him nearby.
We have a discussion about men and women, and Giusy admits that Italian men are weak; well, she thinks they are shallow, only caring about their looks and not caring about those around them.
The whole of Italy is bella figura; it's on the surface that everything seems idyllic. And it is only when one delves deeper that they realize it's underbelly is full of toxins. Italy remains a paradise for us, no matter. We make the best of what we have and love our village, so the rest of the world's problems seem somewhat remote.
I'm reminded in a book I'm reading about the usefulness of the St. Joseph The Worker statue. If you're trying to sell your house, dig a hole and plant him in it, upside down, then cover it over with dirt. When we did that with our home in Mill Valley, an offer was made on our house the next day.
Perhaps we should offer this information to some of the people who live in Italy and want us to sell their properties. We'll have to look around for another statue; we have one on our fireplace mantel, but have no intention of giving it up.
Dino drives off to Bassano for another showing of a property; we will also show one tomorrow. One never knows.
I've decided to do a different treatment on the basket of the Felice painting, one I'm sure will anger Marco on Monday. But the treatment he showed me is too convoluted and dark, so I'm using my idea on another portion of the basket. My stomach is in a knot thinking of how he'll behave, and perhaps I should think more about what I think instead. It's all a matter of perception, anyway.
I have a headache, have no idea what it is from. So I'll try tachiprina and that may work all by itself. Later we'll visit Pietro and his houseguest for a drink, and then Annika and Torbjorn, also for a drink, for they leave tomorrow for Sweden.
The weather is decidedly cooler. We're into long pants and sweaters from now until April. Va bene. I'm ready.
Pietro and his guest show up at our house instead, and we have a quick visit before driving down to Annika and Torbjorn. They'll be gone until Spring and we're sorry we did not get to spend much time with them this week.
Is it only Wednesday? These few days have flown by.
This morning we leave the house and stop at Pietro's to measure the length of his station wagon. It is no longer than Pandina, so Dino decides he'll take the Panda to Bassano to pick up the long chestnut poles for the new pergola. He and Pietro agree that they'll do this together at around 1 P M, when the carabinieri are all at home for pranzo.
Dino decides to make the trip alone, and does not leave until after 2:30. I'm nervous, thinking the carabineri will stop him, but these poles are the shorter ones, a little over 3 meters in length. He's not worried.
I make the Turkish borsht, a thick vegetable beet soup that we'll have tonight with Pietro and Helga. Helga arrives today for a month. Later, Paola and Antonio will stop by to speak with Dino about ADSL, which they have ordered. We think we're going to switch, but Dino has questions. So what was that about ADSL never coming to little Mugnano?
Anyway, we drive to Attigliano to meet new friends Jude and Pamela, here from Texas and Berkeley to look at a house in the countryside. They like it a lot, but there are two cottages next door that might become rental units. That's not fun. If they purchase the whole property that will end the rental problems of people stopping by to ask questions. So we'll see.
After caffé at a bar overlooking the 2,000 year old wall around the town, they leave for the rest of their trip, and we'll continue to look for Jude. We know just what she wants, and now will begin a hunt, looking forward to seeing her again in a month, this time perhaps with her husband.
At home the soup is made and I bring up a couple of the castagno poles with Dino, but they are very heavy. So when Pietro arrives with Helga tonight, he'll help Dino take the remaining poles up. Then it's a call to Mario to sink them in the ground and fortify them with cemento. Va bene.
A piece of mine is published today in Italian Notebook about the Temple of Clitunno near Trevi. GB loves to edit, and took the opportunity to look up the words of Pliny about it and change some of the words. Va bene. The location was a great find.
Because we don't receive much U S political news, we've been turning into FOX. Today I almost fell off my chair, when I watched Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a woman I met in Brussels while we both supported Hillary. She was being interviewed in New York. I liked her a lot, and respected what she had to say about Hillary.
Today my mind is racing. What has taken Lynn to this point? She's a mainstream Democratic personality, a huge backer of Hillary, and yet now she's stumping for McCain. It will take a couple of days for it all to sink in, but she brings up a good point. No Democrat has ever won a presidential election by courting the left. Bill Clinton was a centrist, and she admits he was hated by both the Left and the Right, and yet he won.
My mind is in turmoil. I can imagine what it is like to live in the U S and not be convinced of the viability of either candidate. I'll write more when I can figure it out.
Pat and Dick Ryerson are here for a month and we hope to see them here before they return to the U S. It's great that they've taken a good bit of time to hang out here.
We drive to Diego's to take more photos and do some measurements of the property on his estate that is for sale. It's a very good property at a very reasonable price, so we're imagining it will sell this fall. Since it's on his vast estate, the owner can take advantage of the pool and his castello as part of the deal.
While walking back up to the castello after taking photos, we're imagining ourselves owning the little house and walking up to go to the pool or to an elaborate dinner at the castello, just a short hop up the rose and cypress lined driveway. What a dream!
Dino wants to get home, for he's driving to Bassano at ora di pranzo (1PM) with Pietro to pick up four long castagno poles that will form the corners of the new pergola. He drives off and returns an hour or so later with his bounty and with Pietro, to help him carry them to the garden.
After a simple pranzo, we drive to visit with a neighbor in a nearby town, a Norwegian who has asked Dino for advice on a project. We've not seen them for a couple of months.
We're treated like old friends in their new house, and it is strange that we did not sell it to them, especially since the listing languished on our site for more than a year. We're happy they're here, and Dino will look over a project to put in a pool at the back of the house while they're gone.
We drive to Amelia and are given a new property to put on our site, and in a day or two will have it listed with photos and description. It's a studio apartment, completely and lovingly restored in very characteristic fashion by a young muratore we trust; it has a view and is located in the center of the borgo. It's on the site now, so take a look: http://www.lavventuraitalia.com/realproperty/ame11/
Back in Mugnano, we stop for a minute at Pietro's just as they're walking up the stradabianca. We'll see them tomorrow and I've asked Helga to sit with us in a few days to help us to navigate a Norwegian website. We'll advertise there as a test, since we meet so many wonderful Norwegian people who love Italy, and they seem to have plenty of money to spend on real estate. It's worth a chance.
I don't know why, but we eat two spring rolls each and even though they've been warmed in the oven are very oily. Five minutes later I don't feel well, and we're guaranteed not to sleep well tonight. Will we ever learn not to eat these things, especially not at night?
It rained during the night, and now it's piove a dirotto (raining cats and dogs). I just learned this from Peter, hi Peter, who emails me that he enjoys reading Italian Notebook as well as the journal. That reminds me. A number of months ago, we ran into a woman in Tenaglie who is Russian, I think, and told us something in Italian that made me think we had been saying it incorrectly all these years.
Dino responded when she was out of earshot, "Never take Italian lessons from another stranieri." Oh.
We drive up to Diego's to get some answers for someone in the U S who is interested in the house on his property. We take our computer and plug it in in the large kitchen of the castello, so that I can type in the answers to the questions. Since it is rainy, we'll return another day to take more photos and a few movies. We think this will be an excellent match for the possible new owner and Diego. We'll see...
Back at home, I fix a pasta with ginger and zucca (I have the recipe figured out by now) and a panzanella with pomodori. Yes, I'll put those on the site soon. It's a good pranzo, but very filling.
Later, Dino will take Pietro to meet with Alessandro, our masterful Insurance Agent who speaks English and writes policies for most of the stranieri we know. He's also excellent at getting claims paid.
Now Italians are a distrustful and enterprising lot. We're told they only buy insurance when they are sure they can recoup what they've paid for the policy. We still have an American mentality about insurance, and don't want to be caught without it. That worked for us a few years ago when we were robbed here, and except for the car, which was stolen, we were reimbursed for the rest of the things that were stolen.
Having the right Italian insurance agent is key, we think, for our car was insured with another insurer, who gave us so much less than the car was worth that we felt we had been robbed twice. With Alessandro, we know what we are getting: a man who will fight for us and get us paid if there is a claim. Bravo, Alessandro!
With the American stock market in trampoline mode, Obama seems to be the most level head of the four major candidates for office. I still don't know what to do with my absentee ballot, so will wait and see what happens before casting my vote.
It looks as though tomorrow's giro toward Rieti is in doubt, for today's rain and tomorrow's promise of rain will make it a less than fun experience. I also think we'll pass on taking the bread making photos. Perhaps we'll do both next Saturday.
What happened to the rest of the figs on the tree? They're probably waterlogged. If it clears, Dino can walk out there and see, but what a mess it will be underfoot!
The sky clears somewhat during the night and the forecast is for better weather, so we follow through on our plans with Duccio and Giovanna to explore the region of Central Italy near the Adriatic Ocean. Gee, that sounds far away, but Italy is shaped long and narrow, so it won't take more than an hour or two to reach the "other" coast.
As we drive over the hills above Terni into the Rieti Valley, we pass signs on the steep cliffs with skull and crossbones that read "Percolo di morte!" or "certain death!" We're on the inside of the road on the way out, and on the way back I just don't look out.
Dino tells Giovanna and Duccio that he thinks their son Giuliano is a "ham", posing in front of his poster last week in Todi. How does that translate? "Un prosciutto!" We drive past a sign for a bocce court that reads "bocca porco", or pig's mouth. What is it about pigs in Italy?
I need to make a note to write a story about San Salvatore in Terni. It's a wonderful church, in a city many people ignore when they're traveling through Italy. During WWII, Terni was bombed heavily due to major steel plants located there, and after the war, many of the new buildings were fashioned of concrete and stone and very utilitarian, so no one will win architect's awards there.
We ask Duccio, our local economist expert, what his predictions are for Alitalia, the Italian airline in great financial difficulty. "Percolo di morte!" he responds, as if it's being thrown off the proverbial cliff.
Our destination today will include a visit to San Felice, and yes, that translates to Saint Happy. We'll tell you more later. But on the road we read a sign that tells us "gelata improvisa", which means sudden freezing. Gelato is ice cream, but gelata is ice.
It's possible that we will include the town of Greccio, where Duccio tells us that San Francis "invented" the presepio (manger), and that's fodder for another story. We find out later that he did not really "invent" it, but you'll have to read Italian Notebook for my story to find out. I'm always thinking of Italian Notebook, for there are thousands of stories about characteristic Italy, just waiting to be written.
We arrive in the town of Vezia and ask about the Santuario of San Felice and a man tells us, "Once in my life I saw it but I don't know if it's open." Duccio tells us that if we were in Sicily the people would know but would not tell us. Here, they just don't have a clue.
We're in Lugnano di Riete, and an old man and his wife pass us on the street. He's wheeling a carriolo (wheelbarrow) filled with groceries as his shopping cart. When we ask them about the church they don't know, but tell us that the priest who may know is in nearby Croccodilo. Yes, that's the name of the tiny hamlet. We drive down there until the road gets so narrow, it can only be traversed by...a crocodile.
San Felice (St. Felix or St. Happy) was born in the town of Cantalice. Note: if you look up the town of Cantalice on the www, you may read that is the home of St. Happy!!? That is the result of an automated translation program. We learn that Cantalice itself is the result of a union of villages at the time of the Saracen invasions.
Not much has changed since then, by the look of the town. It is lovely and worth a visit, although it's on many levels and not easy to traverse. Duccio offers that perhaps it connects all the forlorn places. In winter, it must be very cold here.
Dino and Giovanna and Duccio make the trip down and back on the 148 steps to see what is going on in the tiny village, while Sofi and I wait by the church above. They find a beautiful village on different levels. I remain on top in front of the church of St. Felice and it's 18th century facade, waving as they walk down and down and then up and up. Giovanna tells me they're "un po fatticoso" (a little tired) from the steps. Duccio tells us they are "biscotti duri" (tough cookies). Inside the borgo is a building that they did not see called the Church of Mercy. This is the church of the Brotherhood of Mercy, also known as the Societa del Buon Morte (good death). It appears they are hospice workers.
There is a tower in Cantalice with a marker to Carlo V.
We must divert here just for a minute. On Porta Pia in Rome, at the end of Via Nomentana, which becomes Viale XX Settembre, "La Presa di Roma" (The Taking of Rome) took place in 1870 to commemorate this event. Each year, towns all over Italy celebrate it with processions and bands. On this date in 1870, the Bersaglieri corps entered Rome through the Porta Pia as a symbol of the completion of the unification of Italy. Now back to today's events...
It's time for pranzo and we eat at La Pannocchia. Pannocchia stands for ear of corn, but no one in Italy eats corn. It's grown for cattle feed...so why the name? Perhaps it has to do with the harvest of grain.
For dessert we share a semifreddo, a dessert (not totally frozen) that is quite tasty, surrounded by a line of dark chocolate. "Andare in brodo di giuggiole" (to be in sweet ecstacy) is how that translates and we learn this from Giovanna, as well as the writing on a bottle placed on our table, frosty from the freezer. It contains a sweet liquor made from the fruit of the jujube tree and is known as Brodo di Giuggiole.
Our pranzo is "abbastanza buona" (good enough), and we leave to look for the town of Poggio Bustone, where we buy post cards for the famous singer Lucio Battisti. He was born here and Giovanna wants to send her son Giuliano a postard of him.
We pass a group of carabinieri with rifles (carbines), lined up for the procession. Earlier we saw one, a Bersagliero with a tall hat with a large black feather (a costume - read uniform - from the 19th century) standing by the altar in the main church, during a mass in honor of the day and of the caduti (fallen soldiers) from the various wars. The procession will have to wait for the mass to finish, for here in Italy, the line between church and state is certainly blurred.
We're looking for San Liberato. So we drive on to the little village of San Liberato di Rieti. Yes, we're always looking for San Liberato, the martyr who is also the patron saint of our village. We find the village, and a young man named Constantino has the key to the church. He lets us in, and here's what the church looks like as well as their statue of San Liberato.
On October 4th of each year there is a celebration in this town, Poggio Bustone, and yes, there will be an Italian Notebook story about it.
Well, we're pretty tired, so drive home with Sofi asleep on the back seat between our good friends. It has been a wonderful trip, and we look forward to many more with out good friends.
"Are there more figs? I ask Dino after we are at home. "Yes, so perhaps we'll make them tomorrow. We've had enough excitement for one day.
Its Sunday, and the Ecomuseo di Teverina will have its first major walk this morning. There are expected to be more than sixty people, transported at the back of three tractors or so. Of course, we'll be there to photograph it, so here's how they look as they're heading off.
Wer'e not home for more than half an hour when we have to drive to Buco Nera (black hole); this is what the area where Tiziano's dig is called. We want to finish documenting the event, and although won't photograph the pranzo later, it will be fun to see them return.
After pranzo, we fix a batch of our figs, and later will receive many more from Maria Elena and her fried Frieda from Norway. They will leave on Tuesday and we've offered to cook and bottle their figs based on our gingered fig recipe.
They stop by for tea, and we recommend that they drive to Orvieto tomorrow on their last day. But we are to drive to Tia and Bruce's for a festa for Alan and Wendy Briggs, here for a short trip from Australia, so they leave and Sofi stays to guard the house while we drive off.
It is wonderful to see our friends, who lived in Italy for five years before returning to Australia last year. Helen and Panis' son caters the meal, and it is very good. There are old friends to see and new friends to meet, including a friend from...Mendocino!
As we open the gate we see three big plastic bags full of ripe black figs, so tomorrow morning I'll be cooking them with ginger and lemon and sugar and Dino will bottle them for our dear friend.
We're tired, so turn in to read. These days, we've both been taking valerian, one little pill just before bedtime. It's homeopathic, but works almost instantly and we're able to get good heavy sleeps. Our doctor tells us it's not harmful, but could become habit forming. Since neither of us sleeps without it, we'll have to decide when to stop taking it, and for how long.
Dino drive off for a doctor's appointment, to figure out what to do about the tingling in his arms, and Sofi and I stay at home. She cried during the early morning hours and her stomach is bothering her, but she won't take any water, so the enterogermina we put in her water dish won't help. Just before pranzo, she seems to rally.
It takes me all morning to wash and cut the figs and lemons and cook up the conserve. The first batch of figs made a few weeks ago was not thick enough, so I open all of those bottles and add them. Dino will continue to cook them and add pectin before bottling them, while I'm painting at Marco's this afternoon.
Dino returns, and has more jars. Even with the jars we'll give Maria Elena, we'll be loaded with figs, with plenty to give for holiday gifts and as things to take to people when we're visiting.
Dino has a prescription for an MRI, for the doctor thinks he may have a pinched nerve in his neck. He has also been at the questura, to find out what has happened with our permessos (permits to stay in Italy). There is some complication, something to do with a bank statement, so we'll figure that out this week. In the meantime, we have termporary permits.
He drives me to Marco's, with Sofi acting strangely in the back seat. She's not feeling well, but as the day proceeds she seems better.
At Marco's, although I feared he'd give me a bad time about the basket, he does not. We agree on a new design, and he shows me how to proceed. I'll paint over the old design and by the time Dino picks me up, I have a clear idea of how to paint the basket.
In usual fashion, I've been so conscious of what I am painting that later in the night a headache returns. Yes, I know I should be doing neck exercises. Each time a headache appears I think about those exercises. Now if I can only do the exercises a few times a day, perhaps I can get rid of them.
Dino has bottled 44 jars, and there is another huge glass bowl full of the cut figs I prepared earlier in the day. I work on them right away, and it's after 9 P M before they're bottled and standing on their heads to make a seal.
Dino and Sofi and I walk up to Maria Elena's, with her jars of figs in a basket, and he returns home while I gab with they two of them, hearing about their day. Freida tells me, "I've traveled in a lot of countries, but think Orvieto is the most beautiful town I've ever seen!"
We'll not see Maria Elena for a long time, perhaps even Spring, but send her off with lots of figs to keep and figs to take back on the plane.
Dino is already in bed when we return, so we join him and soon we're asleep, thanks to the valerian.
I wake with a headache, and of course it's from all the concentration at yesterday's art session. Will I ever learn?
I have an idea about the problems with the government taking over the country's bad debts, and the Treasury Secretary's role. People are afraid of giving one man the ability to make all decisions, and there is some talk about a board of overseers.
What if Obama and McCain were on the board, and instead of campaigning worked with Paulson to determine what happens? Wouldn't that be in the best interest of the country and represent divergent points of view?
Don't worry if you don't agree...No one listens to me, anyway.
I take medicine for the headache and return to painting, for Marco wants me to proceed while the paint's still wet. In the meantime, Dino returns to Diego's to take more photographs and get additional information about the property.
Dino does not have an appointment yet for his MRI, but Vezio the pharmacist has his prescription and is trying to work out an appointment.
We're so sick of figs, but at least the work is done, and we'll have a break until the caki (persimmons) are ripe, when I'll make steamed persimmon puddings for all our friends. That is the dessert most friends wait for.
The puddings are frozen when cooled, and people keep them in their freezers and defrost and heat them for special desserts. With the weather patterns so strange this year, we probably won't make them until our return from the U S in early December.
Dino has no luck with the Questura or with the bank regarding the status of our permessos. One of the tellers tries to help him. A friend emails us that a friend in Rome waited 19 years for his permit, only to be called in and shown a photo with his documents for a man from Bangladesh. Come back in three months, he was told, for the correct permesso. We've never had such trouble in the ten years we've had our permits...until now.
If any of you live in or around Rome, there will be a party in October for the one-year anniversary of Italian Notebook. So we'll let you know when and where to come. I turn in a story about Galateo and Italian food laws, and it was fun to write. Do you know that Italian-Americans still think it's fine to use a big spoon to twirl long pasta around before eating? Don't blame me. It's Galateo's law...
Dino takes me out to the lavender garden to measure again for the pergola. We agree on a few adjustments and on a scheme to grow wisteria up next to the four poles on bamboo, instead of winding around the beams. Dino wants them to stand on their own once grown, like sculptures, without bamboo. I think they'll have to be at least several years old for that, but admire his creative idea.
He has an interesting digger, and will probably dig the four holes himself. He's going to drill steel rods into the base of the poles in both directions to keep the poles from moving once they're encased in cement below the surface. Pretty impressive, don't you think? He constantly amazes me.
I took a break from painting this afternoon, and will return to it tomorrow morning. The basket is slowly taking shape, and I'm hoping that before I return to Marco's on October 6th that the main part of the basket will be finished.
I do have some real fears about the economy, and admit I shed a few tears this afternoon when we were in the garden. The thought of ever having to leave here would be more than I could bear.
I return to painting the cestino, and spend more time on it than I should. So yes, I do some neck exercises. Dino returns from an appointment to tell me he can have his MRI in April in Terni! He'll ask around about other places, and there is a place near Rome where we think we can get an appointment sooner. We do have an appointment next month just in case.
I fix a pasta with fresh tomatoes and carciofi (artichoke hearts) and pepperoncini and the pasta I use is called al ferri. Dino likes it a lot. I think when it is made it is wound around something resembling a nail. We've now thrown the package out and aren't sure of the name. Al Gore's internet doesn't help, either. So when we figure out what it is called, we'll let you know. A bottle of wine to anyone who emails us first with the name.
Today is one of the most beautiful fall days in memory. So why am I inside, painting? Who knows, but Dino leaves for another appointment and I stop painting just before 5 P M. By now I'm too tired for a walk, but I'm tired of hearing news, news, news on the T V.
You're certainly aware that mafia does exist in Italy. Now the Italian government has drawn up a new task force of 500 soldiers to be sent in addition to the 3,000 soldiers already deployed with police in major Italian cities sent this summer to root out mafia related crimes, mostly related to drugs and prostitution.
Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa told the ANSA press agency Tuesday that ''the majority'' of the troops would be sent to the southern city of Naples following the worst ever Camorra massacre last week, that left an Italian and six Africans dead. The last time a task force of soldiers was sent to Naples was in 1992 following the murders of two anti-Mafia judges. The Casalesi Camorra clan is believed to be behind the latest killings.
It's a really lovely morning, with cotton balls of clouds floating against a pale skyline. As the morning progresses, a blue that only seems to appear in Italy or in the religious paintings recalled in my youth stand out, and the spicy fresh smell of the rugghetta in front of the loggia dances across my palm.
Today we're driving to the Questura in Viterbo, to make some sense of their recent letter. It has something to do with our bank, and an assurance that we have money in our Italian account. We are still trying to get our permessos renewed.
When we walk into the office I sense an air of tension, for no one enters this room supremely confident; the person on the other side of the window may possibly act based on their lack of breakfast, or a joke with a colleague at the next desk.
The good news is that we are called up by the woman who helped us in May. "Ah, il signori da America!" she smiles, and I retort, "Come va?" (How are you?) We have learned how important it is to establish a friendship, especially with bureaucrats in uniform. We still don't know her name, although she treats us kindly.
She clearly wants to help us, but sends us away with more formal clarification needed regarding our bank and the Italian Embassy in San Francisco. Since we now have a dialog and an email address of a man at the embassy in San Francisco who has agreed to help us, we know what to do next, or at least we think we do.
There's a terrible story about death on the high seas near Malta of refugees from Africa seeking new lives in Italy. EU border patrol missions are scouring the Italian shore in search of yet another missing vessel carrying North Africans attempting to reach Europe.
These days, we feel like ordinary immigrants, especially since we're not able to easily complete all the necessary documents for our permits to stay. For now, we're treading water, and if all goes as planned, we'll have our permits soon. Might as well enjoy the little things in life, for the larger challenges are just too precarious to fathom.
I don't know if it's the coming of fall, but I have taken on a less abrasive attitude toward the world. These days, I feel happy to be alive, and take my joy from the little things in life. My glass was seemingly half empty, and now it's more than half full. Strange, but in a moment one's attitude toward life can change markedly; mine is a sea change.
We stop for a minute in Tenaglie for a minor repair and then stop in Guardea at Paolo and Caterina's, where Tani is now working. Paolo gives us a head of the most beautiful lettuce with fronds slim leaves like pencils and a handful of rugghetta; we'll surely have a green salad with our roast chicken today for pranzo.
The weather is so lovely that I'm hoping Dino wants to work on the pergola this afternoon. He is digging the holes and painting the bottom of the poles with a gooey creosote; then we'll put them in the ground and surround them with cement. Dino plans to mix the cement himself, telling me he has the proper mix composition from his friend at Orsolini. Va bene.
As the sun begins its descent and temperature drops, I stand by Dino as he maneuvers the tall poles on top of saw horses to paint the bottoms with creosote and nail in small rebar poles in two directions to increase their stabilization after the cement has been poured.
What he then tells me is that all four poles have to be sunk before they are leveled off at the top, for the land itself is not level. Only once the poles have been sunk can he measure and cut all the poles to the correct length.
My earlier calm is followed by an emotional jag, to which Dino does not know how to respond. I feel as if I'm being swallowed up by a black hole...
The evening ends with me not taking a valerian pill. I want to see if I can sleep without taking it.
Today is our 27th wedding anniversary, and I wake to an email from my brother that sucks me back into that black hole. Some victories are hollow, and as I dress I feel I'm putting on a heavy cloak, dragging from its weight.
Dino sweetly wishes me a "buon anniversario" and we're to attend the first part of a Mediterranean Garden Society event this morning, hosted at Tia's beautiful garden outside Amelia. I look forward to seeing old friends and walking in Tia's marvelous garden. Dino enjoys these gatherings, too. Sofi stays at home.
I'm buoyed by Dino's sweetness, and by the thought of seeing old friends. There is a very sweet surprise; Paola, a friend I have not seen in a year or two is here with her friend, Letizia.
I love these two women; they are at once sweet and strong. I learn that Paola now tends galline (hens), and has more than 200 0f them; if we had attended the Villa Lante show last weekend we would have seen them in person. Purtroppo.
Paola and I walk arm and arm around the grounds with the rest of the group following Tia's garden designer, Michael. This has been an amazing undertaking, a great deal of work, and the results today are a triumph for Michael, and especially Tia, who has taken this on as a labor of love.
After the tour there is a sale of plants and books. We purchase only a blue flowering sage plant and two books. But what we do is rather stupid. We are such honest stranieri that we walk right up to the cashier and pay right away. We seem to be the only ones.
Everyone else takes the plants they want and sets them aside, to buy at the end, when all the prices are rock bottom. Sigh. All these people have learned how to shop like true Italians...except for us. Will we ever learn?
Since Paola speaks very little English, we talk in Italian, but when I try to say that I'm so happy to have seen them again when we are about to leave, I'm chastised sweetly by Letizia. The term "molto piacere" (very pleased to see you) is, I learn for the first time, old fashioned and more than a bit shallow. Groan.
"Molto felice" is a better term, and I certainly can remember that...Va bene, Letizia. I am sorry that we are leaving the group here and driving home; the rest of the group is driving on to Foce, for a pranzo. I'm hoping we'll be able to visit Paola soon, to see her galline and take photos so that I can paint them. Yes, I'm always interested in hens, so why not paint Vincenzo holding a gallina?
We drive home and I make a chicken risotto with yesterday's roast chicken. Afterward, Dino works in the garden with the initial two poles for the pergola, and Sofi and I join him when he needs us. While it's still warm, he prepares the cement for the first hole. Tomorrow Pat and Dick will be here for pranzo, and since he's a contractor I'm sure he'll enjoy seeing what Dino attends to do.
GB has used our photos and written a totally different story about the Italian Aqueducts, so I send him an email to ask him if my story was too direct. He's the boss. I will say that I thought the story of the aqueducts and how the Romans engineered the water flow to Rome was quite ingenious. Have faith, Evanne. It's not important to win all the battles, and most of them do not have to be battles, anyway.
Speaking about battles, the politics surrounding the U S bailout are quite fractious. Neither candidate seems to have a handle on it; McCain just stares and Obama's take seems too intellectual and possibly is bored. I'm secretly wondering what would happen if nothing was done...Isn't our capitalistic system worthy of an adjustment? And can't it settle down on its own?
The afternoon is truly beautiful; the only sound is the hum of a high-flying plane, soaring toward Rome. Sofi, silently wagging her tail as she sticks her nose into a lavender plant, is at her happiest; these days she no longer destroys plants.
She just loves the idea of having lizards around and chases them, taunting them until I move on. Then she silently follows me, and if I come upstairs to write she lays in her bed with her head hanging over the side until I'm ready to return downstairs to paint or outside to help Dino.
Not many miles away in Viterbo, a dear old friend clings to life. We are not aware of any of it, but the same disconnect I've been feeling for a few days continues as I climb into bed. For the second night in a row, I decide not to take a valerian pill, and see if I can still sleep.
I wake early to watch a rerun of last night's debate, and Dino comes down while I'm in the midst of watching it. He joins me and we eat breakfast in front of the T V. I strangely think John McCain is winning this one, but the pundits later say that Obama held his own, and for that he may have come out on top.
What we are then told is that the American public won't really care which one lands in the White House. That seems to mean that neither candidate has hit a home run. Although we've already sent our ballots in, I'm not convinced that either candidate is what we need right now.
Pat and Dick arrive at around 12:30, we break out a bottle of icy cold prosecco and it's almost 2 P M before we sit down to eat pranzo on the terrace. Pat and Dick tell us about their recent trip to the "spur" of Italy (think just above the heel...you know Italy is shaped like a boot), and Pat tells me to think A..E..I..O..U...
She continues, "Italian towns and cities in the North of Italy often end in "A" or "E". Towns and cities in the center often end in "I". Towns and cities in the South often end in "O" or "U". Interesting trivia? Take a look at a map of Italy and see what you think.
The meal is fine, the weather has cooperated, and we decide to take our friends on a walk up to the borgo to look around.
We've walked up Via Mameli, and we're close to Vincenza and Augosto's house, when Dino is about to comment that there have hardly been any deaths in this village for the past year. He looks up at the signboards. And then he's struck dumb...
I gasp as we look at the notice. He died just before midnight last night in Bel Colle Hospital in Viterbo. Although I enjoy being with our friends today, I walk over to any neighbor I see to talk about Felice. I can't believe it. Augusta takes my hand and calmly tells me that it's sad but it's understandable. He has not been himself for months.
I see Gigliola sitting on a bench in front of their house and walk over to her. She takes me in her embrace, and comforts me. We silently nod and then I walk up to the main church to find Dino and our friends.
On the little street I look up to see Ernesta and Giuseppa sitting in the sun. I walk up to them and Ernesta tells me she spoke with Marsiglia just a few days ago and it appears that Felice went into the hospital on Friday and had a stroke.
I feel as if I'm walking blindly, and somehow we all walk home. I'm not really "there", but we sit and talk until our guests leave, when we leave ourselves to drive up to Bomarzo.
There is no one at Marsiglia's house, nor is there anyone at Renzo's. Renzo is their son. We call Tiziano who tells us they are all at the mortuary at Bel Colle Hospital in Viterbo.
We learn this afternoon that if someone dies in the hospital, they're often taken downstairs to a haphazard mortuary, which consists of prefabricated buildings with hallways and little rooms, just long enough for a casket and just wide enough for the casket and a few chairs.
But if a person dies at home, they stay there until the funeral. There is no embalming in Italy. That is why people are buried within two days of their death.
Marsiglia stands next to Felice in the tiny room and their son, Renzo stands at the doorway. I sit with Marsiglia for about twenty minutes. In my hand is a sachet of lavender, and I place it in her hand and tell her to take a sniff of it when she's very stressed. I don't know what else to do. She holds my two hands in hers and talks and talks. I nod in quite disbelief.
On the way to the hospital, we called Angie Good, who always visited them when she was nearby, taking Sofi with her when she was sitting for us. Marsiglia and Felice always loved to see little Sofi. Angie is so very sad about the news and asks me to give "Marsi" a kiss for her, which I do.
Others arrive, and we stand outside in the hallway and talk with our neighbors. The funeral will be on Monday. How strange, how strange, that at 9 A M this morning no bells chimed in Mugnano to tell us there was a death. I'll have to ask why. Perhaps the bells chimed in nearby Bomarzo, where they were living.
While we're standing around, Augosto asks Dino why we don't write the journal in Italian; evidently our neighbors love looking at the photos but don't understand what I write about. On the way home we talk about it, but it's not going to happen.
Even when I am able to speak the language well, I certainly won't be able to write in grammatically correct Italian. The most we can do is offer that they can take the information and have Google translate it. From that, they can probably figure out most of the writing.
I have an idea that if any of the children who are studying English would like to write for the journal about what is happening in Mugnano we will publish it on this site. We'll see. I can hardly concentrate on anything, so I just don't know if this is the time to bring it up.
We know that we will return to be with the family and friends tomorrow, so wish our neighbors "a domani" (until tomorrow) and drive home. We're invited to Pietro's for a drink and bring Sofi, who dances around but stays close to me. Pietro's son and his son's girlfriend and another friend are here, so it's an animated group. After a short visit, we return home to try to make some sense of what has happened.
I'm still not sure I comprehend his death, and spend the rest of the evening in a daze.
But early this morning in another part of the village, there was some good news in Mugnano...Priscilla gave birth to a baby asino (donkey) named Spillo. Why Spillo?...for its spindly shaky legs, of course.
Here is Spillo dropping head first out of Priscilla at the moment of birth and it's an amazing photo. He is HUGE! Did we tell you that the father is Maggiolino, Priscilla's son?!
I suppose all families have their infighting. In this strange family, Pepe has to separate Maggiolino from Priscilla and Spillo for about ten days, for Priscilla is jealous. Jealous? Sounds asinine to me. Sorry.
The sun is hazy and bright; I put on a very pale blue-green turtleneck and see that it is the color of the fog lolling around between the dark, dark grey-green hills in the valley.
There is an extra honking below us, probably from the baby asino (donkey) born to Priscilla and Maggiolino yesterday. We will take Sofi to visit them one of these days, but not today. I'm hoping we'll drive to Viterbo to be with Marsiglia after mass. "Sempre avanti" (always forward) I say to myself. Just keep moving.
Walking up the little street to church, we look down the little alley leading to Pepe's house. The door is closed, but there is a big pink bow on the door.
Dino gives me his handkerchief, and I fall apart once the mass has begun. Don Bruno is our priest, and the devoted parishioners follow his every word. I try to understand, but can only fathom the part where he tells us that He is not only here for thepriest; he is here for everyone. I can hardly mouth the words to the Lord's Prayer without weeping. Somehow the mass ends and we drive to Viterbo to be by Marsiglia's side.
When we arrive at the mortuary that is connected to the hospital, Marsiglia is there, this time in a winter coat, feeling more comfortable and having a lot to say to me. I think she speaks mostly about last night and her night in her house.
But something unseen is building, and it is all good news. Outside the room, we speak with Renzo, who embraces us and thanks us mightily for returning. I ask him how he would feel about Dino's idea, based on volunteers from the Confraternity, in which two members might assist the priest in funerals and the related processions to the cemetery on the hill. If so, Dino would be honored to participate in Felice's funeral and procession.
Renzo is the priori, or capo, of the Bomarzo Confraternity. He tells us that just twenty days ago he suggested this very thing to Don Luca, about members of the Confraternity di San Anselmo in Bomarzo. Don Luca seemed positive at the time, but there was no date to begin.
Now Dino asks Renzo if he thinks it is a good idea for him (Dino) to call Don Luca about tomorrow's funeral for dear Felice. Felice was a member of the Confraternita di San Liberato di Mugnano. He said it would be up to Don Luca.
Outside the room Enzo and Rosita are sitting, so Dino asks Enzo if he'd be agreeable to participate tomorrow with Dino. Enzo tells him yes, and we leave on a new mission. So how does one say, "honor guard" in Italian? Dino text messages Tiziano, who responds, "picchetto d'onore". Va bene.
Driving through Bomarzo, we stop at the priests' house, and Dino gets out of the car to see if Don Luca is around. Don Luca stands at the door, and puts his hand on Dino's shoulder. While we were driving, Renzo called Don Luca and it is all set: Dino and Enzo will be the first Confraternity members to participate in a funeral of their own. We drive home and Dino calls Enzo. "è fatto". (It is done.)
The sun is out, dancing with the clouds, and a single bird flies off over the nearest hill. Rise swiftly, dear Felice, and know that those of us who love you send you off with kisses and thanks for your gentle guidance.
After pranzo and today's Formula-1 race, we walk to Pietro's to guide Helga to the Orte train station and back. While Pietro is in Rome doing tours, Helga will pick up friends tomorrow and take them to the La Magnolia B&B in Orvieto .
We drive to Viterbo to the hospital again, and Renzo is surprised to see us yet again. We are able to spend a few minutes with Marsiglia, and I have some questions about Felice's face. From photos, I recall a scar over his left eye and part of his eyebrow is shaved. So we ask her if Felice had an accident.
"Undici anni fa" (11 years ago, he was a young 73!) she tells us, "he fell off his Vespa. He broke his nose (that explains why his nose is bent to the left) and cut his forehead over his eye." That explains the lack of hair on one of his eyebrows and the scar, as well as the shape of his nose.
She goes on to explain what happened, but needless to say that was the end of the Vespa for Felice. It helps me to paint the features of his face that I am having trouble with. Now I am only unsure of the color of his eyes, and tomorrow will take a look at Renzo's to see if I can find a similarity. I'm like an archaeologist now, putting together an ancient treasure.
"Soon," I tell Felice when we're at home in the kitchen and he's looking out from the tall uncompleted painting of him standing with the basket of carciofi on his shoulder, "we'll fix you up good as new."
The sun is shining at 7:30, when the bells for Felice peal at the little church up in the borgo. When someone in Mugnano dies, the bells peal loudly at 9 A M; the reverberation lingers forlornly from each clang before the next bell is rung. But today the bells ring happily, for Felice was always happy, and at 7:30, for Felice was a contadino and farmers always rise early.
I'm strangely at peace with the passing of dear Felice, and with Dino and Enzo standing with the priest this afternoon in their confraternity garb as "picchetto d'onore", he will be in good hands.
Speaking of Dino, he's digging holes and planting the last two major poles for the pergola. After hand-mixing the last bag of cement and sinking in the poles, we'll soon be ready to order the nine cross poles across the top, and to buy the four glicene (wisteria) plants for the four corners.
Sarah always counseled us to wait until May to be sure of the correct flowers on each wisteria plant, but I'm fine with the pale lavender wisteria, and am confident that Margheriti in Chiusi will have marked their plants correctly. We want to get the plants in the ground this next month.
When we drive up to Chiusi, we'll also stop at Cetona for another case of their red wine. It's remarkably good and remarkably inexpensive.
We hear Enzo and Rosita calling out to their dog Paca in the valley while working in the garden, and neighbors are outside moving forward with their vendemmias. The good weather should hold. All seems to be well in Mugnano, despite the final journey of our dear first mentor in a few hours.
Felice is cooperating inside as well. I decide to do some further work on his eyes, and he's now looking more like the Felice we knew and loved. Soon it's time to walk up to the borgo for the funeral, and at the top of the hill we meet Don Luca waiting for Felice and he nods silently to me when I thank him.
Possibly in honor of Renzo, the Priori of the Confraternity di San Anselmo di Bomarzo, three members attend in full dress. So Felice now has five honor guards at his funeral. Part of the women's choir of Bomarzo is also present, and the women of Mugnano are not left doing all the singing of the prayers.
So Felice is given a sendoff fitting of a very important person, and that is just what Felice was to many of us. He never expected to be treated in such a grand fashion, and he's probably laughing at much of it.
Sogno d'oro (golden dreams), dear Felice.
We're greeted by another sunny day and bright haze overhead. Dino wants to work on the pergola, and I stand around to help as his "step-'n-fetch-it". Pasquale opens the shutter of his bedroom window above us and is amazed by what is rising up in our garden, calling Dino a "fallegname bravo" (good woodworker).
By noon, the uprights have been cut so that they are level with one another and the beautiful top castagno poles with the palombelli (carved dove design) at the end of each one are fastened.
While standing in the center garden this morning, I watched a red tractor carve its way through a blanket of grass, turning the land over from green to brown. Soon there will be something planted, and that probably means grain.
Maggiolino continues walking around by himself. We'll try to walk down there to meet Spillo this afternoon and to ask who works on the nearby tractor. There is so much to learn, even about our neighbors.
After pranzo we walk down with carrots and are able to get inside the campo, although Pepe is not there. Priscilla jealously guards Spillo, but happily takes our carrots.
None go to Spillo, for she won't let him get near us. He seems content to stay close to her, winding himself around her and under her and tottering on his spindly legs as if he's a young ballerina trying to stay "on pointe".
We walk back to Pietro's and sit for a few minutes with his group, after looking at the room that will become his studio and workroom. With a coat of whitewash and a few lights, it will be a wonderful room to escape to, not that he needs to escape.
We walk back home and as the sun lowers on the horizon, spend a little time in the garden and then Dino leaves to pick up Pietro's son to drive to Viterbo. The young man really wants to buy a Fiat cinque cento automobile - the old style from the 60's- , and the group meets on Tuesday afternoons.
Sofi and I will have none of it. Pasquale has come by with more of those beautiful old green glass jeroboams, and we'll find a place for them. Now we have about a dozen, mostly displayed in the grotto where at Christmas time we have our presepio (manger).
Dino and Pietro and Thomas, Pietro's son, and Thomas' girlfriend Toyah, drive off to the 500 Tuscia Club Viterbo , and find it in an office of a huge palazzo near San Pelegrino, Viterbo's medieval borgo. There are several men inside, and none seem to know of any cinque-centos for sale. This "No" is characteristic.
But after a few minutes all the men stand around their new fans as a call is made to the owner of the auto repair shop, who has four. There is an interest in two of them, and it is decided that tomorrow morning we'll meet them in Viterbo and look over the two in question at the shop.
Since Dino and I need to visit the Prefettura to find out the latest twists and turns in our applications for citizenship, we expect to be in Viterbo anyway. We've had residency for ten years now, and that should allow us to be able to apply. It may take as long as two years to complete the process. "Sempre avanti!" our neighbors tell us. Let's take the first step...
We end the month with our heads spinning with the promise of many adventures ahead.
To read the CURRENT month, go to ITALY JOURNAL